What does it mean to be a Muslim?
Posted by: "Shahid
Date: Mon Jul 28, 2008 6:30 pm
By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi
Follow these properly and you will be capable of increasing the goodness and
wisdom of all people
MUSLIMS believe that Surat Al-Israa' was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace
and blessings be upon him) in Makkah after his Night Journey from Makkah to
In this surah, Allah mentions some basic commitments of Muslims. Without
fulfilling these commitments, no individual or group can succeed. Muslims
have to live by these values and should invite humanity to these principles.
These principles are not limited to one race, tribe, or group; they are
universal in their scope and application. These are also called the hikmah
or the teachings of wisdom. If followed properly, they are capable of
increasing the goodness and wisdom of all people.
These principles are as follows:
1.* *To worship Allah alone*
"And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him." *(Qur'an,
This means to recognize Allah as the ultimate reality and to recognize Allah
as the Lord, to worship Him with all sincerity and to submit to Him in every
aspect of life. A Muslim's life is nothing but total commitment to Allah.
We are not only monotheists but we are also theocentric people. Allah is the
center of our life and He is our total and ultimate concern.
*2. To be respectful and kind to parents*
"And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them
attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout
at them but address them in terms of honour. And lower unto them the wing of
submission and humility through mercy, and say: "My Lord! Bestow on them
Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was young." *(Qur'an, 17:23-24)*
This is to acknowledge the compassion and kindness of parents, to be
grateful to them, and to do one's utmost to reciprocate that love and
compassion. Filial piety and devotion is the second most important
commitment of Muslims. Respect and kindness to parents is not just a social
duty for us; it is our religious duty and obligation.
*3. To be good to relatives, to the poor, and to travelers*
"…And give to the kinsman his due and to the Miskin (poor) and to the
wayfarer." *(Qur'an, 17:26)*
This is to remember that we are interconnected in this world. Our
responsibilities are not only towards ourselves and our immediate families,
but also to other relatives and to the society at large.
We are all in need of each other and we are all fellow travelers in this
path of life. We must see what we can do for others. Muslims must live a
socially responsible life. Social responsibility begins with the family and
other relatives and it includes all those who are in need.
*4. To be careful with money and not waste resources*
"…But spend not wastefully (your wealth) in the manner of a spendthrift
(Tafsir At-Tabari). Verily, the spendthrifts are brothers of the Shayatin
(devils), and the Shaitan (Devil-Satan) is ever ungrateful to his Lord. And
let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck, nor stretch it forth
to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift), so that you become blameworthy and
in severe poverty. Truly, your Lord enlarges the provision for whom He wills
and straitens (for whom He wills). Verily, He is Ever All-Knower, All-Seer
of His slaves." *(Qur'an, 17:26-27, 29-30)*
One should be neither too tight with one's money nor too loose with it.
Extravagance is not right, but also one should not become stingy and
miserly. A Muslim is committed to a balanced life style.
Money should be earned in halal (lawful) ways and it should be spent in the
right manner. This principle can be applied to all resources that Allah has
given us. Wise and conscientious use of resources is a very important
commitment of Muslims.
*5. To take good care of children*
"And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We shall provide for them
as well as for you. Surely, the killing of them is a great sin." *(Qur'an,
As we recognize the rights of the parents, we should also recognize the
rights of children. Our children are our future. We must see that we raise
healthy, intelligent and morally responsible children. Our commitment should
be to raise them in safe and healthy environment. We must protect their life
as well as their spirit and mind, their morals and manners.
*6. To steer clear of adultery and illicit relations*
"…And come not near to the unlawful sexual intercourse. Verily, it is a
Fahishah (i.e. anything that transgresses its limits: a great sin), and an
evil way (that leads one to Hell unless Allah forgives him)." *(Qur'an,
Sexual perversions bring the greatest harm to individuals and societies.
Observing the proper rules in this matter lead to health, happiness, and a
good, moral society. Muslims are committed to pure, clean, and socially
Islam teaches that one should not come even close to adultery or
fornication. This means proper dress codes for males and females, proper
behavior in mixed societies, and proper control on social relations and
*7. To respect every life and not to kill anyone unless in the pursuit of
"…And do not kill anyone whose killing Allah has forbidden, except for a
just cause." *(Qur'an, 17:33)*
This means that one should recognize the sanctity of all life and should not
do anything that may jeopardize life. One should avoid aggression and
violence, because these things lead to murder. Every Muslim must be
committed to peaceful ways. Conflicts should be resolved through dialogue
and negotiations, not by killings and murders. However, justice must be
maintained, because just punishment brings safety and protects life.
*8. To take care of the orphans*
"…And come not near to the orphan's property except to improve it, until
attains the age of full strength." *(Qur'an, 17:34)*
Orphans and all those who are vulnerable must be taken care of. Their rights
must be recognized and they should be protected from all harm. A Muslim must
be deeply committed to the care of the young, poor, infirm, and handicapped.
Kindness and compassion is the basic commitment of a Muslim. It includes
everyone and includes even the animals.
*9. To fulfill promises and commitments*
"And fulfil (every) covenant. Verily, the covenant, will be questioned
about*." (Qur'an, 17:34)*
Promises and contracts are an important part of human life and human
civilization. When promises are not kept, people lose trust in each other
and the whole society becomes weak. Muslims must be true to their words. Our
commitment must be to speak the truth and to be honest and when we make a
pledge we must do our best to fulfill our pledges.
*10. To be honest in business dealings*
"…And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with a balance that is
straight: that is good (advantageous) and better in the end." *(Qur'an,
Honest business brings progress, success, and blessings. All business,
whether commercial, social, or political must be done with a sense of
justice and fairness. A Muslim is committed to fair dealing in every thing
and with every one. Dealing with a Muslim means dealing with full
confidence. A Muslim businessman should be the most truthful businessman. A
Muslim worker should be the most honest worker. A Muslim in any profession
should bring honor to that profession.
*11. To act upon knowledge and not follow hearsay or act on half-truths*
"…And follow not (O man i.e., say not, or do not or witness not) that of
which you have no knowledge. Verily! The hearing, and the sight, and the
heart, of each of those one will be questioned (by Allah)." *(Qur'an,
Information agencies, the media, have a great responsibility. A lot of
injustice is done when misinformation is given or information is misused.
Muslims should be committed to truth in information. They should promote
truthful and honest reporting about everyone, including their enemies. A
report coming from a Muslim source should be the most trustworthy report. In
a similar way, Muslims should be extremely careful with their actions and
reactions. They should not react against everyone without proper evidence.
*12. To be humble and have no arrogance*
"…And walk not on the earth with conceit and arrogance. Verily, you can
neither rend nor penetrate the earth, nor can you attain a stature like the
mountains in height." *(Qur'an, 17:37)*
Moderation and balance is the best thing in one's behavior as well as in
one's attitude toward others. A Muslim is a dignified person, but he or she
is humble. A Muslim is not boastful, arrogant, or vainglorious. A Muslim
thanks Allah for all His gifts. For everything, the ultimate praise is for
Allah and the real glory belongs to Allah.
These are the basic commitments of Muslims as individuals and as people.
These are the principles of wisdom and the universal values of Islam. When
they are followed, they bring justice, peace, and happiness in this world
and they will indeed bring success and salvation in the Hereafter. Let us
all try to make these our real commitments.
– Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, a former President of Islamic Society of North
America is presently President, Fiqh Council of North America.