What Does It Mean To Be a Muslim?
Recent events have put the Muslim population of the world in the middle of public attention - What Does It Mean To Be a Muslim? introduction. Unfortunate events like the 9/11 terrorist’s bombings have place Muslims in a bad light because of some people’s accusations that the Islamic religion is somehow related to terrorism. Nevertheless, even though the suicide bombers who are responsible in these terrorists’ acts are indeed Muslims, it does not necessarily mean that all those people should be characterized as such.
However, those people who lack the necessary knowledge about Islam as well as those people who adhere to these beliefs become susceptible in giving judgments toward the Muslims in the forms of stereotypes and prejudices. Being the case, a persisting question arises, what does it really mean to be a Muslim? To be a Muslim means to have a deep commitment towards your religion that is observable in words and in actions that is mindful of the well-being of oneself and most especially of other people.
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In order to understand what it is to be a Muslim, the meaning of the Islamic religion must first be understood. The word “Islam” means “to submit” or “submission” (Chittick, 1992, 2). Thus, Islam is defined as “voluntary submission to God’s will by following His revealed messages” (Chittick, 1992, 2). The Koran states that “Muslims” are those who freely submit to God. As such, religion is a very important aspect of being a Muslim wherein they adhere and practice the different teachings and beliefs of their religion.
The principles that guide the Islamic religion are found in the Koran. The Koran or Qu’ran is a book of Holy Scriptures of the Islamic religion that contains a record of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, which he delivered during the seventh century (Dawood, 1990). Since, Muhammad is considered as the messenger of Allah or God; his teachings are also recognized as coming from the divine. Among the most notable principles that guide the Muslim in the practice of their faith are the Five Pillars of Islam. The five pillars of Islam are: Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, Sawm, Hajj.
First, the Shahadaha also known as the testimony is the basic foundation of remaining four pillars as it is considered as the gist of Islam’s central points. It is a profession of faith wherein an individual bear witness that there is no other god but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet (Schimmel, 1992). Second, the Salat or the ritual prayer, which is performed properly five times a day. Third, the Zakat or giving alms or tax is considered as a form of charity, which is given to the poor and the needy. Fourth, Sawm is the practice of fasting during the month of Ramadan.
Lastly, the Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, the center of Islamic teaching, at least once in a Muslim’s lifetime (BBC, 2008). These Five Pillars served as the framework in the life of every Muslims. These also proves that Muslims give due importance to their religion by actually practicing it in their daily lives and not just merely something that believe or preach. The important element in a Muslim’s worldview is rooted in their Islamic belief. The Islamic perception of the world is concerned not only in the present situation or reality of events but it also includes the life after death or the Day of Judgment.
It can be said that Muslims believe in “dual worldviews”, which makes it different from the Westerners’ view. Dissimilar to Western perspective that is dependent on logical reasoning and rationality, Muslims still based their views mainly from the Koran (Asri and Fahmi, 2004). This only shows the great influence that their religion has with the other aspect of their lives. The attitudes or characteristics of a Muslim are also influenced by his or her religion. According to the Prophet Muhammad, a believer of Islam also known as the Muslims are described as morally upright, giving, and compassionate.
This is clearly seen in his sermon, which states that a believer has a life that is mindful of the law and exemplified righteous deeds. He or she has good morals and treats other with respect. A Muslim also has a purified heart and soul because he or she does not hate others or being hypocritical about them. A believer of the Islamic religion spends his or her wealth for the cause of Allah, which could be exemplified through acts of charity. Most importantly, Muslims are compassionate. They are not offensive towards other people and their actions are guided accordingly in order not to harm their fellow human beings (Al Balagh Foundation, n. . ). Since Muslims are characterized as morally upright individuals, they tend to adhere to strict codes of conduct. The moral teachings of the Islamic religion is grounded from the belief that Allah gave every individual the necessary intellect in order for him or her to differentiate what is right from what is wrong. Temptation is something that is present and observable in the world. It exists among the midst of every individual but a human being’s capability to discern and make morally judgments should enable him or her to fight these temptations.
In this sense, an individuals’ morality is what makes him or her different from other living creatures that Allah created. Animals do not have the capability to distinguish good from evil, which made humans distinct from them. Being the case, an individual who practiced lying, cheating, deceitfulness, and other unjust deeds are worse than an animal. The Islamic teachings mandate that humans should have a life that is guided by principles and moral virtues. Muslims should follow good, praiseworthy as well as moral behavior and forego of immoral and bad conduct.
This is related from the belief that an individual who possesses a bad character causes harm to oneself as well as to the society as a whole because his or her actions affect other people (Al Balagh, n. d. ). Contrary to some people’s belief that resurrection and the judgment day are only observable in religions like Christianity, Islam also has their own teachings when it comes to these matters. The central doctrine of the Qu’ran also give due importance to the Last Day or the Day of Judgment.
Based upon the Islamic belief, the souls of the death remain in their graves while waiting for resurrection to take place. Nevertheless, during this period of waiting they already can already foresee what will happen to them during the Day of Judgment. Those people who follow the teachings of Islam and live a life that is in accordance with the principles that Allah gave them will always be at peace. On the other hand, those people who lived an immoral life and completely disregard the teachings of their religion will suffer in their graves, which only indicate that they are bound for hell (Religion Facts, 2008).
During the Judgment Day, those humans that are resurrected will face Allah. Allah will judge them according to their actions while they are still on earth. Their eternal destination is dependent upon the balance of their good and evil deeds. There are only two destinations that these people will go to. They can either be admitted to Paradise wherein they will experience spiritual and physical well-being forever or they will be condemned to Hell in which they will suffer spiritually and be physically tormented for eternity.
This kind of judgment is also described as passing over Hell through a narrow bridge in order to get to Heaven. Those who are sinful will be weighted by their bad deeds and fall in Hell forever (Religion Facts, 2008). People who do not completely understand the Islamic teaching thought that Muslims practiced intolerance especially with regards to non-believers or those who adhere to a different religion. This kind of adage is proven to be wrong. According to the basic principle of Islam, faith should be observed towards all prophets of the world.
This clearly debunks this aforementioned allegation. The Islamic religion preached the love and respect for other religions in the world but more than that it gives emphasis in having “faith” for these other beliefs. This only proves that Muslims are tolerant of people who do not adhere to their religion. Moreover, it does not only preach faith for other religions, Islam also gives equal for all (Ali, n. d. ). Being a tolerant and inclusive systematic religion, Islam is characterized with an interrelated set of ideals and realities that influence individuals.
As such, many concepts in this religion are also connected with each other. This is exemplified by martyrdom and Jihad. Jihad is often described as the mere idea of holy war; however, its literal meaning is the “struggle” or “effort” (BBC, 2008). Muslims pertain to Jihad in three various kind of struggle. First, a believer of the religion’s internal struggles to live a life that is guided by the Muslim faith. Second, is the struggle to establish a sound society of Muslims. Lastly and the most controversial is the struggle to defend the Islamic religion even with the use of force.
There are references in the Islamic writings that describe this third form of struggle as military in nature wherein this means is utilized in order to counter anything that threatens Islam (BBC, 2008). The concept of martyrdom is usually related with the idea of holy war because it is being prepared to die in the process of submission to the Islamic religion. However, martyrdom is not only realized by dying in the course of battle because the other kinds of struggle in the light of living the Islamic faith are also associated with it (Ezzati, 1986).
During this modern age, Islam is also faced with numerous challenges with regards to criticisms about the practice of this religion. One of the most notable issues being raise is the inequality between men and women in Islamic religion. However, the scriptures of Islam disprove such claim. It gives men authority over women but it gives emphasis that men should treat them properly. Divorce is also seen as a prerogative of the man but women also have to divorce their husband if it is stated in the contract.
Moreover, the way women conservatively dress and act in the Muslim society is also scrutinized by Westerners as a form of subordination. Nevertheless, Muslim women defend these practices as a part of their religion and culture, which they willingly and voluntarily follow. In relation to these, other modern phenomena like globalization and internationalism are not something the Islamic society completely disagrees from, the only thing they want to ensure is that modernity will not disrupt the Islamic religion that they uphold.
Being a Muslim entails being committed to the religion that you adhere to. This is clearly established by the great influence that Islam has in the different aspects in the life of a Muslim. Muslims does not merely believe or preach about their religion but rather they make sure that they practiced its very values and ideals in their everyday lives. This is observable in their decisions, actions, and even when it comes to their perspective about the world. It only shows that to be a Muslim is indeed to be a firm believer of Islam.