By Mohamed Ali
The best way to examine how Muslims should apply their religion is to study the life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
This is not just a personal conclusion, rather it is testified by the Holy Quran that the people who are following the Prophet (PBUH) with good intentions and deeds, are on the side of Allah. In the sight of the Prophet (PBUH), Islam was more than just praying, fasting, and rejecting evil, which are definitely good to practice. To him it was more like a character. The character that makes the initiative to help his neighbors, the poor, and executes justice between people regardless of their religion or social class.
The character that attempts to practice good deeds for the sake of Allah (SW), and not materialistic benefits. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “In the judgment day, the nearest one of you in my side, is the one with good character”(1). This Hadith (proclamation) makes you wonder, is having a good character more important than praying five times a day? The answer is simple, practicing your obligatory manners is the foundation of your faith, but Islam is more than faith.
Unfortunately, most of us are practicing our religion but not connecting the dots. A Muslim walks out of the ICT after Jummah and starts arguing for the silliest reasons. The other is praying five times a day, but shows no respect to his parents. Surely, the faith is still there but the people are no longer afraid of lying, cheating, and breaking promises. These behavioral problems could be easily solved if people considered that Islam is a character that renovates the individual, because the predicament is that the majority are only Muslims when it comes to practicing their religion and they do not see it as a self transformation.
Historically, Islam expanded because the people wanted to go through this self transformation, and espouse its good character to change their life. Only then was it possible for people to think that Muslims with such good character could not possibly have a false religion.
The first thing the Prophet (PBUH) did when Allah (SW) commanded him to declare Islam was; after standing on the hill and calling everyone, “If I tell you that there is an army behind that mountain willing to invade this city would you believe me”, and they all responded “yes by God, because you never tell lies.” The Prophet (PBUH) responded, “Then I am telling you that your Lord is only one, and I am his messenger”(2). Intelligently, the Prophet (PBUH) wanted to confirm from that them he is trustworthy, which made it easier to draw his conclusion.
Lets apply that question to ourselves, is our character good enough to present Islam?
Let us examine how Ali (the cousin of the Prophet) answered this question as he was battling against one man in a war. The man dropped his sword, and realized Ali was going to kill him, so he spit on Ali’s face to disrespect him before death. Instead of killing him, Ali walked away. The man stared at him and asked “Why are you not finishing me?” Ali told him, “I was willing to kill you only for the sake of Allah (by protecting Islam from enemies) but now after you spat on me, I was going to kill you for revenge which I cannot, because that is not my character”(3). It did not take long for the same man to become Muslim.
My dear brothers/sisters, do not forget that praying, fasting, and all the other practical obligations are the foundation of Islam. This is not intended to persuade anyone that is rich of good character and behavior to stop praying five times a day. In fact, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “The prayers are the base of Islam, and demolishing the prayers is the same as demolishing the entire religion”(4). We need to be careful about the small deeds that enlarge into evil sins. Dishonesty morphs into hypocrisy, self-conscious into arrogance and unregulated relationships become adultery. May Allah protect us from misleading ourselves, Ameen.