I was inspired to write about my thoughts on this subject after a wonderful article I read on Islamicity.com titled “Living Islam not just performing it”. The part that stood out the most to me was:
“ There is no better way for Muslims to promote the message of Islam than living Islam and not just performing it. Their neighbors will not know they are Muslim by the number of times they pray or fast but by their honesty, truthfulness, compassion, reliability, cleanliness, sense of justice and civic responsibility.”
For a long time I have held this belief that religion in general is best expressed not in following ritual, but in using one’s teachings to bring about a change not just in oneself but in others around them. This is nothing new to me as a Muslim as I have felt this way even as a Christian in my youth. I believe that if what one holds as truth is exactly that, I shouldn’t have to read about your beliefs necessarily because I would be witnessing them. Reading about one’s religion should ideally be as result of interest and wanting to know more about your religion. Every Muslim should be a walking manifestation of Islam. Or at least be striving to be that! 🙂 When non-Muslims see us, talk to us, or listen to us, the beautify of Islam should be so manifest, that one should what to know more about Islam. In truth, every Muslim is supposed to be an ambassador for Islam.
How do we accomplish this?
What I have found out is that people tend to truly believe that actions speak louder than words. It’s one thing to say Islam is a religion of peace, it’s an entirely different thing to live with others in peace whether non-Muslim or not. It’s one thing to say that Islam is the true religion, it’s an entirely different thing to prove it in your actions by showing how the truth of Islam has affected you in such a way that others want what you have.
The problem I see with a lot of Muslims is that we believe that Islam is about rituals, laws, and customs. We tend to care more about our ritual obligations, our dress (or lack thereof), or whether or not we say or use the correct Arabic terms and words from everything to sneezing to going to the toilet. We often forget about the philosophy and principles of Islam and instead opt to be cookie cutter Muslims emulating word for word, action for action, and even in our dress, what Muslims of yesteryear, centuries ago did, said, and dressed.
We forget that just because the Prophet (saw) brushed his teeth a certain way that we don’t have to exactly use a miswak to brush our teeth, the principle is: clean your teeth. Just because the Prophet (saw) rode a camel, we don’t have to ride a camel, the principle is: get a means of transportation. Obviously I could go on and on, but I’m certain many get the point.
How Muslims dress, look, eat, etc. has little to no bearing on whether or not Islam is truly in their hearts and actions. I have met and seen many a Muslim with a beard, hijab, etc. who speaks perfect Arabic, uses appropriate Arabic phrases, etc. but are unapproachable to both Muslim and non-Muslim alike, because their is no joy, love, etc. in their demeanor.
Non-Muslims and even Muslims can not ascertain one way or the other whether or not you made all your prayers, fasted, gave charity, or have gone to hajj just be looking at you (but they should). However, they will know whether or not you smiled when greeted, or whether you greeted them at all. They will know how many times you participated in community events, how many times you shook hands, how many kind words (or not) you have said, etc.
In my opinion, one firmly rooted in Islam and truly living Islam shows it no matter where they are and no matter who’s watching. Their worship is not just in the Masjid or on their prayer mats at home, but their worship is in how they treat others whether family, friends, fellow Muslims, or not. They recognize that they share this world with all humanity and as such has role to play in making society for the better no matter where they live. The true example of Islam is that of the perception of Muhammad (saw) which his name of course means worthy of praise. I use the term “perception” because everyone didn’t know him personally, but many came to know of him. Many didn’t know for sure what he held in his heart, but many know what his actions were. Many non-Muslims praised his kind and pious deeds, he was noted for his trustworthiness, honor, and patience. His was a name that reached further than his homeland.
For us to truly say we are living Islam, we must live a life that is worthy of praise. Not because we seek praises of men that is only a physical effect. The cause is our love of Allah (swt) and our Deen, Islam. Our love, should be manifest to all in our works, our works if truly grounded in that love, will be spoken of with praise. When that is done by the whole of the Ummah, then there would be no need for discourse on why Islam is not terrorism, barbarism, violent, backward, etc. because the world will know it.