Traditions and culture – an interweaved mix of beliefs and customs deeply rooted in the conscience of society – define the identity of the society, as well as the social contract through which social cohesion is sought to be established. In modern societies, traditions are becoming more of a symbol, losing their status of a creed regulating the social contract. The new prevalent creed shaping the social lifestyle is a global materialistic view, dominated by consumerism. Muslim societies and communities are no execption and have also embraced the same global trend. But, unlike many communities, the traditions of Muslim communities have sprouted from the faith. In fact, all major celebrations in Muslim communities are religious: Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr, Hajj, Eid Ul Idha, etc.Therefore, embracing the global materialistic trend has, in a sort of way, paralyzed the active aspect of faith in the traditions and turned the latter into mere symbols, devoid of spirit and constructing a new lifestyle that rhymes with the global materialistic trend.
The impact of such a phenomenon in Muslim communities has been the emergence of a new breed of Muslims, who are truly strangers to Islam! They adhere to a pure materialistic view in spirit and action, while retaining from Islam its symbols without veneration and its acts without a soul. They retain aspects like the Muslim name, the Eid celebrations, and, of course, the wish to go to Paradise! Can one dancing in a music concert wearing hijab around a crowd drinking alcohol and consuming drugs, be called a true Muslim? Or a person swearing, bullying others, being loud and rude, be called a true Muslim? Can one who breaks promises, cheats, and betrays trusts be called true Muslim? Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “The adulterer is not a believer while he is committing adultery. The drinker of wine is not a believer while he is drinking wine. The thief is not a believer while he is stealing. The plunderer is not a believer while he is plundering and the people are looking to him.” What should be called, then, the one who persists on sinning and does not even pray?!
Being aware of such a phenomenon helps the believer living according to the divine worldview not let him/herself sigh in vain after seeing this new breed of Muslims. These Muslims profess to believe and adhere to the same Islamic creed and the same teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah to which he/she is adhering. However, seeing them parting from the Path of Allah and seeking to justify such with crooked evidences, and seeing their actions and lifestyle that conflict with the teachings of Islam, makes the sincere believer – who highly regards the rights associated to brotherhood and sisterhood – be alarmed and hurt by such doings. He/she wonders, “How can a Muslim act against the high objectives of Islam?” However, these are facts, meaning that one needs to accept the reality as is in order to plan accordingly. Therefore, accepting the reality of the status of these Muslims – Muslims in form, but non Muslims in actions – should ease the conscience of the believer from the spiritual burden of their crookedness and not regard them in his/her plan of attaining the high objectives of Islam. Such a way preserves the believer’s zeal and mood and would lead him/her to stop wasting effort on blaming and criticizing, and instead, put more effort and focus on achieving the high objectives of the faith. In a similar context, the Prophet (pbuh), was given the guidance on how to deal with his people, as has been described in the following Ayah: “Are those whose evil-doing is made so appealing to them that they deem it good ˹like those who are rightly guided˺? ˹It is˺ certainly Allah ˹Who˺ leaves to stray whoever He wills, and guides whoever He wills. So do not grieve yourself to death over them. Surely Allah is All-Knowing of what they do.” (35:8). Also, the believer should not grieve if so-called Muslims persist in ungratefulness, adhere to a trend prohibited by Islam, or leave Islam completely. In fact, they were not truly Muslim in the first place - “Let not those who run toward disbelief grieve you; they shall not hurt Allah in the least” (3:176). However, the believer should not stop beseeching Allah (swt) for these Muslims to repent and join the caravan of the sincere believers: “… for those who repent, correct themselves, hold fast to Allah, and are sincere in their religion for Allah, for those will be with the believers. And Allah is going to give the believers a great reward” (4:146).
If one thinks he/she is a true Muslim, what elements should he/she be checking in order to be certain he/she is on the right path? The following are concrete steps guiding one toward attaining the state of a true Muslim. It would help one after studying them to see at which position of the path he/she is standing.
The first step is that one needs to infuse the spirit of the faith back into the traditions and culture, in order to cure them from the materialistic creed. Then, the necessary primary action to be undertaken is to cleanse the traditions he/she is adhering to and the culture he/she embracing, from rigid thoughts or any negative way with which he/she may be viewing Islam. Stop terrorizing people with a narrow-minded approach, preaching that everything is Haram (prohibited) and threatening with imminent punishment. Instead, one needs to implement the spirit of the way of the Prophet (pbuh) described in the following Hadith: “Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and give them good tidings and do not repulse (them).”
The second step is to reinstill the regarding with high esteem and veneration the acts of worship and the religious seasons of worship, such as Ramadan. Venerating the rites of Allah (swt) will help ignite the elements of piety in the hearts. In fact, regarding with high esteem the symbols of Allah (swt) induces piety in the heart: “And whoever honors the symbols [i.e., rites] of Allah - indeed, it is from the piety of hearts” (22:32). The piety gained through the veneration of the symbols of Allah (swt) will take the lead of the Nafs (self/soul), refresh the spirit and enhance the way the acts of worship are observed. To do so, one needs to achieve the objective set for every act of worship and not to just perform them. For example, when praying, one needs to attain the objective of prayer. It is to submit in humility to Allah (swt) and embellish the behavior and character – as the sound prayer helps one be away from immorality and obscenity – and not to passively perform the prayer!
Third, one should embrace a spirit of Khushu (focus, devotion), which should envelop all the aspects of one’s life: “Say, 'Surely my prayer, my worship, my life, and my death are all for Allah —Lord of all worlds. He has no partner. So I am commanded, and so I am the first to submit'” (6:162-163). Khushu, in this case, is defined by the mindfulness of the purpose of life, depicted by the ultimate standing for the truth and the attaining of the pleasure of Allah (swt). This mindfulness leads one to set a hierarchy of actions, governed by the purpose of life and by which the order of precedence of actions is set.
Finally, seek to have the Quran as the spring of the heart by embracing its teachings, so one would never lose Khushu! “Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allāh and what has come down of the truth? And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient. Know that Allah revives the earth after its death. We have certainly made the signs clear for you so perhaps you will understand” (57:16-17).
If one realizes he/she is a true Muslim, he/she should then be thankful to Allah (swt). And the most adequate way of thanking Allah (swt) should be expressed by seeking to attain the next higher rank in righteousness, which is to be one of true believers described in the following Ayah: “The ˹true˺ believers are only those whose hearts tremble at the remembrance of Allah, whose faith increases when His revelations are recited to them, and who put their trust in their Lord. ˹They are˺ those who establish prayer and donate from what We have provided for them. It is they who are the true believers. They will have elevated ranks, forgiveness, and an honorable provision from their Lord” (8:2-4).