The word “Muslim” means one who submits to the will of God. The first principle of Islam is known as the Shahadah(Testimony of Faith), and is as follows: “There is no one worthy of worship except Allah (God) and Muhammad is the Final Apostle (Messenger) of God.” Allah says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ
“O you who believe[d]! Consciously revere Allah (as is His) right (that) He (should) be revered and (do) not die except [while you] (as) those-who-submit/Muslims.” (Surah Al-Imran 3:102)
Islam is not complicated, Muslims are. When I say I am Muslim, I should not feel the need to categorise myself as an extremist, moderate or liberal. I either practise my religion or don’t, but as long as I believe in one God and the Holy Prophet (PBUH), I am as much of a Muslim as anyone else. From the root of the words Muslim and Islam, it is obvious that Islam is a religion of peace, hence a Muslim should be a lover and promoter of peace. Allah says:
رَبَّنَا وَاجْعَلْنَا مُسْلِمَيْنِ لَكَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِنَا أُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً لَّكَ وَأَرِنَا مَنَاسِكَنَا وَتُبْ عَلَيْنَا إِنَّكَ أَنتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ
“Our Lord! [and] Make us both submissive to You. And from our offspring a community submissive to You. And show us our ways of worship and turn to us. Indeed You! [You] (are) the Oft-returning, the Most Merciful.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:128)
The words Muslim and Islam come from the same three-letter Arabic root word, that means peace or submission. A Muslim is defined literally as one who submits to Allah. For one to do this, he or she should live by the tenets of the religion Islam. The Qur’an, which is the Holy Book of the Muslims guides Muslims through life. Allah says:
مَا كَانَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ يَهُودِيًّا وَلَا نَصْرَانِيًّا وَلَٰكِن كَانَ حَنِيفًا مُّسْلِمًا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
“Not was Ibrahim a Jew and not a Christian and but he was a true Muslim, and not he was from the polytheists.” (Surah Al-Imran 3:67)
One cannot judge Islam by looking at those individuals who have a Muslim name, but in their actions, they are not living or behaving as Muslims. Muslims are ordinary people like other humans; among them are the good and the bad. They are not infallible creatures and, therefore, make mistakes. Allah says:
إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ أَسْلِمْ قَالَ أَسْلَمْتُ لِرَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“When said to him his Lord “Submit (yourself),” he said, “I (have) submitted to (the) Lord (of) the worlds.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:131)
Islam has five pillars; faith (iman), prayer (salah), fasting (sawm), almsgiving (zakah), and pilgrimage (hajj). These pillars are the framework of a Muslim’s life. Islam is not merely a religion, it is a way of life. A Muslim is defined not just by his spirituality, but by his conduct.
We can thus summarize the teachings of Islam about the Muslim character in the following way:
- He is refined and gentle in speech, not prone to swearing or cursing
- He is polite and helpful, not insulting and disrespectful to people
- He is loving and solicitous to others, not unmindful of them
- He is generous and charitable, not selfish and miserly
- He is cheerful and generous, not bitter and resentful
- He is cheerful and pleasant, not irritable and gloomy
- He is considerate and compassionate, not harsh
- He is grateful for what he has, not ungrateful
- A Muslim is truthful, not dishonest
- He is moderate, not an extremist
- He is humble, not arrogant
- He is honest, not corrupt
- He is reserved, not garrulous
- He is alert, not absent-minded
- He is soft-spoken, not boastful
- He is chaste and pure, not lustful
- He is dignified and decent, not graceless
- He is spiritually oriented, not materialistic
- He is sincere and straightforward, not hypocritical
- He is diligent and vigilant, not negligent to his duties
- He is optimistic and hopeful, not cynical or pessimistic
- He is confident and deep in faith, not doubtful and wavering
- He always has faith in God’s mercy, not losing heart or becoming desperate
- He is thankful to God and constantly prays to Him, not forgetful of His innumerable blessings
The Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said, “Among the Muslims, the most perfect, as regards his faith, is the one whose character is excellent, and the best among you are those who treat their wives well.” This goes to show that a Muslim cannot claim to be very good, simply because they perform the rites of worship as required. Human interaction is an important aspect of a Muslim’s life. From the root of the words Muslim and Islam, it is obvious that Islam is a religion of peace. Allah says:
وَإِذَا قُرِئَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ وَأَنصِتُوا لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
“And when is recited the Quran, then listen to it and pay attention so that you may receive mercy.” (Surah Al-A’raf 7:204)
The Muslim personality is balanced. He pays due attention to his body’s needs and his outward appearance, without letting it distract him from nurturing his inner characteristics, as befits man whom God has honoured and made His angels prostrate to him, and subjugated for his benefit all that is in the heaven and earth. The Muslim is also concerned with that which will form sound intellectual development and ways of thinking so that he understands the nature and essence of things. Allah says:
فَمَا وَجَدْنَا فِيهَا غَيْرَ بَيْتٍ مِّنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
“But not We found therein other than a house of those-who-submit/Muslims.” (Surah Adh-Dhariyat 51:36)
He does not forget that man is not only composed of body and mind, but he also possesses a soul and a spirit and feels a longing for higher things that makes him rise above this materialistic life and ascend the heights of goodness, virtue and light. Therefore, he pays as much attention to his spiritual development as he does to his physical and intellectual development, in a precisely balanced fashion, which does not concentrate on one aspect to the disadvantage of others.
- With his parents, he is an example of sincere filial piety, good treatment, infinite compassion, politeness and deep gratitude.
With his wife, he is an example of good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties.
- With his children, he is a parent who understands his great responsibility towards them. Although the floods them with love and compassion, he pays attention to things that may affect their Islamic upbringing.
- With his relatives, he maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties toward them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him remain in touch with them regardless of the circumstances.
- With his neighbours, the true Muslim is an example of good treatment and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He puts up with mistreatment and turns a blind eye to his neighbour’s faults while avoiding committing any such errors himself. He always adopts the Islamic attitude, whereby treating neighbours well was made a basic principle of Islam. His relationship with his brothers and friends is the best and purest of relationships, for it is based on love for the sake of God.
This pure, sincere, brotherly love derives its purity from the guidance of the Quran and Sunnah (traditions and approved actions of Prophet Muhammad ) that became a unique system in the history of human relations. Allah says:
رُّبَمَا يَوَدُّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْ كَانُوا مُسْلِمِينَ
“Perhaps will wish those who disbelieved, if they had been those-who-submit/Muslims.” (Surah Al-Hijr 15:2)
In his social relationships with all people, he is well mannered, civil and noble, characterized by the attitudes which Islam encourages. Good behaviour which is taught in the Quran and Sunnah has been made a religious duty in Islam, for which man will be brought to account. This is the clear, beautiful picture of the Muslim whose personality has been formed by Islam and whose heart, mind and soul are filled with its divine light. Allah says:
تَبَارَكَ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ الْفُرْقَانَ عَلَىٰ عَبْدِهِ لِيَكُونَ لِلْعَالَمِينَ نَذِيرًا
“Blessed is He Who sent down the Criterion upon His slave that he may be to the worlds a warner.” (Surah Al-Furqan 25:1)
The development of a society is not measured solely in terms of its scientific achievements and material inventions. There is another, more important standard by which a society is measured. That is the prevalence of human values such as love, empathy, altruism, sacrifice, uprightness and purity of thought, behaviour and dealings with others. If individuals are the basis of a society, then rightly guided societies pay attention to human development. Allah says:
رَبِّ قَدْ آتَيْتَنِي مِنَ الْمُلْكِ وَعَلَّمْتَنِي مِن تَأْوِيلِ الْأَحَادِيثِ فَاطِرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَنتَ وَلِيِّي فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ تَوَفَّنِي مُسْلِمًا وَأَلْحِقْنِي بِالصَّالِحِينَ
“My Lord, indeed, you have given sovereignty and taught me of the interpretation of the events. Creator (of) the heavens and the earth, You (are) my Protector, in the world and the Hereafter. Cause me to die (as) one-who-submits/Muslim, and join me with the righteous.” (Surah Yusuf 12:101)
Therefore enhance the positive, constructive aspects while seeking to eliminate evil, destructive motives that the individual will become a model citizen. It is from groups of such model citizens that clean, civil, strong, healthy, righteous societies are formed. A Muslim is required to be good not just to fellow Muslims, but to people in general, animals, and trees. Treating the vulnerable ones in society- children, elderly people, orphans, and widows kindly, and giving them special care are also duties of a Muslim.