We can see there are many people these days who call themselves Muslims, but in fact the only thing many of those people have to do with Islam is their name. In order to ensure that we die as Muslims we must have the following characteristics:
1) A Muslim does not commit any act of shirk.
Allah says (what means):
"Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him." (al- Nisa:48)
"Verily, whosoever sets up partners in worship with Allah, then Allah has forbidden Paradise for him, and the Fire will be his abode. And for the wrongdoers there are no helpers."(al-Maidah:72)
We can not pray to any other than Allah or associate anything with Him. We can not pray to any dead person in a grave not even Muhammad(S), we can not pray to any person we might call a saint, etc.
We must perform our actions solely for Allah. Allah has told us in the Quran (what means):
"Say, Verily my prayer, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds."(Al-Anam:162)
This also means we must direct our life and our purpose towards pleasing Allah. If there is something we are doing which is not pleasing to Allah, then we must ask His forgiveness and we must stop that act.
We must obey only Allah through what we have in the Quran and the Sunnah, which means we need to obey Muhammad(S) as well. We can not blindly follow some individual without knowing the evidences for what we are doing.
Allah has told us in the Quran (what means):
"They (the Jews and the Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah" (al-Taubah:31)
We can not make something Halal which is Haram, or something Haram which is Halal.
2) A Muslim does not set up an intermediary (middle person) between themselves and Allah.
We can see many people go to graves to pray, and they say they are only intermidiaries for us. This is totally incorrect as Allah has said (what means):
"If you invoke them (the dead), they hear not your call, and if they were to hear they could not grant it to you. And on the Day of Resurrection, they will disown your worshipping them. And none can inform you like Him Who is the All-Knower."(Fatir:14)
We can see that in Surah Fatiha, Allah has said (what means):
"To You (Alone) do we pray, and from You (Alone) we seek help." (Fatiha:5)
3) A Muslim acknowledges that non-Muslims who reject Islam are disbelievers.
Allah has said (what means):
"And whosoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers." (Al-Imran:85)
Muhammad(S) said: By Him (Allah) in Whose Hand Muhammads soul is, there is none from amongst the Jews and Christians who hears about me and then dies without believing in the Message with which I have been sent, but he will be from amongst the dwellers of the fire. (Sahih Muslim)
Our position to such people is as Allah tells us what means:
"Say, Oh Disbelievers (ones who commit shirk, worship idols, etc.). I worship not that which you worship. Nor will you worship that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which you are worshipping. Nor will you worship that which I worship. To you be your religion, and to me my Religion." (Kafirron:1-6)
We have a duty to call others for Islam, and if people still disbelieve and reject the true Religion of Islam after you had conveyed them Islam with wisdom, then we should leave them and know they are disbelievers.
We should also be careful not to imitate the disbelievers in their ways as well, as Muhammad(S) said, "Whoever resembles a people is one of them." (Abu Dawud)
This means we do everything in an Islamic manner, and we should not imitate others. For example, we see many Muslims imitating thedisbelievers in celebrating things like Thanksgiving, Halloween, birthdays, anniversaies, etc. Such things are forbidden for Muslims to do.
4) A Muslim believes the best guidance brought to mankind is that of Muhammad(S) through the Quran and the Sunnah.
Muslims do not hold that the laws of the United States, United Nations, etc. have better laws than was revealed to Muhammad(S) . Allah has said (what means):
"This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion" (Maidah:3)
"Whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are disbelievers." (Maidah:44)
We can also not neglect to adhere to the Sunnah of Muhammad(S). Allah has said (what means):
"And We have sent you (Muhammad) as a Messenger to mankind, and Allah is sufficient as a Witness. He who obeys the Messenger, has indeed obeyed Allah, but he who turns away, then We have not sent you as a watcher over them." (4:79-80)
"Say (Muhammad), Obey Allah and the Messenger, but if they turn away, then Allah does not like the disbelievers." (3:32)
As Muslims we need to love Allah and Muhammad(S) more than our own self. Muhammad(S) has said (what means): Whoever possesses three qualities will taste the sweetness of Iman: 1) That Allah and His Messenger are dearer to him than anything else, 2) To love a person only for Allahs sake, 3) To hate to revert to disbelief after Allah had saved him from it, as he would hate to be thrown into the fire (Bukhari and Muslim)
5) A Muslim does not dislike any part of the religion of Islam.
Allah tells us (what means):
"But those who disbelieve, for them is destruction, and [Allah] will render their deeds vain. That is because they hate which Allah has sent down, so He has made their deeds fruitless." (Muhammad:8-9)
We know we have to pay zakat, and we should not dislike to do it. We know all our deeds our judged by our intention, so if dislike something and even if we do it, it does not cut the bill. We should gladly pay the zakat because we know Allah multiplies the money we give, and this is a means for us to achieve Janat.
We can not change Islam to fit our lives. We have to live our lives according to Islam. We can not say, Well Hijab was fine during the time of the Sahaba, but we are in a modern era now. This is clearly incorrect; when Allah tells us something we have to always adhere to it.
We can not also make riba, the taking of an excess amount of money, halal just because that is the way of America. Islam is the best and only acceptable way, so we have to stay away from the things Allah has told us to stay away from.
We can not make our interaction with the opposite sex who are not are mahram in activities such as dating, hugging, intercourse, or shaking hands halal (lawful).
6) A Muslim does not make fun of any part of the religion.
Allah informs us (what means):
"If you ask them, they declare, We were only talking idly and joking. Say, Was it Allah and His Verses, and His Messenger that you were mocking? Make no excuse, you have disbelieved after you had believed." (al-Taubah: 65-66)
A Muslim will not make fun of a Muslimah wearing hijab or a Muslim wearing a beard, or any act of ibadah one is doing for Allahs sake.
"Verily! Those who committed crimes used to laugh at those who believed. And whenever they passed by them, used to wink at one another (in mockery); And when they returned to their own people, they would return jesting, and when they saw them, they said, Verily these have indeed gone astray. But this Day (Day of Judgment) those who believe will laugh at the disbelievers on Thrones looking. Are not the disbelievers paid for what they used to do." (al-Mutaffifin:29-36)
7) A Muslim does not perform any kind of sorcery.
"They followed what the devils gave out in the lifetime of Solomon. Solomon did not disbelieve, but the devils disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two Angels, Harut and Marut, but neither of these two taught anyone till they had said, We are only for trial, so disbelieve not" (al-Baqarah: 102)
As Muslims, we do not believe in kinds of mysticism as wearing amulets to protect us, or to go to some astrologer, soothsayer, or fortune teller. We should have trust and reliance upon Allah alone, and invoke him with sincere prayers directly to him that we have from the Sunnah of Muhammad(S). We should read the Quran and not wear it around our necks, arms, or legs thinking it will protect us.
8) A Muslim does not support disbelievers or give ones loyalty to them.
"O you who believe, take not the Jews and Christians as protectors and helpers, they are but protectors and helpers of one another. And if any among you take them as protectors and helpers, then surely he is one of them. Verily, Allah guides not those people who are wrongdoers." (al-Maida: 51)
We can see how the Jews and Christians are aligned in this age, one needs to merely look at the partnership between Israel and the United States. As Muslims we can not give these people are loyalty. It is amazing to see in this day and age, Muslims giving more allegiance and friendship to the disbelievers than their own Muslim brothers and sisters. We need to relie more on our brothers and sisters as opposed to the disbelievers.
We should deal with the Jews and Christians in the best manner to bring them to Islam, but we should never compromise our religion of Islam in acting with them.
9) Muslims believe all of mankind has to follow the shariah of Islam.
"Truly the religion with Allaah is Islam" (Al-Imran:19)
We can not feel, Well other people are devoted to their religion and they are good people and they do not have to follow Islam." This is absolutely incorrect.
Other religions worship creations, while we as Muslims worship the Creator alone having no partner. It should pain us that people think Muhammad(S) was liar when he dedicated his life to spreading this religion while he faced so much prosecution.
10) A Muslim does not turn away from the religion and learns and applies the essential aspects of Islam.
"And who does more wrong than he who is reminded of the verses of his Lord, then he turns away therefrom? Verily, We shall exact retribution from the sinners." (al-Sajda: 22)
Saying we are Muslims implies submission to Allah, so we can not turn away from the obligatory acts of Islam, and we can never say we are not required to perform them.
We have to pray, Muhammad(S) said, Between a man and shirk and kufr is the abandonment of prayer. (Muslim)
11) A Muslim does not deny anything that is known by necessity to be part of Islam.
"Do you then believe in part of the Scripture and reject part of it? What is the recompense of those who do so among you except disgrace in the life of this world and on the Day of Resurrection they shall be consigned to the most grievous torment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do." (al-Baqara: 85)
Now we know that the Qur'an is the Book of Allaah. There are so many things in the Qur'an that have just been 'discovered' by people 20-40 years ago. Allah talks about how there is a barrier between fresh water and salt water, and people just discovered that in the 1960's. Allah descibes the stages a baby goes through in the mother's womb, how mountains have pegs, how soil is affected with rain, etc.
The Quran is a book which we have to fully accept. We can not choose to believe in part of it, and not another part of it. We can see this is the case with so many so-called Muslims.
For instance, we have to believe in the following statements of Allah which clearly state He is above us, and not everywhere.
"Surely, your Lord is the One who created the heavens and the earth in six days then He rose over the Throne." (7:54)
"Those, who fear their Lord who is above them" (16:50)
We have to believe everything in the Quran, like the following statement about the Sahaba who include Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Abu Hurayra, etc. (RAA)
"And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun (ones who emigrated from Makkah to Medina) and the Ansar (residents of Medinah who helped the Muhajirun) and those who followed them exactly. Allah is well pleased with them as they are well pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success." (9:100)
We should pray to Allah to keep us away from Kufr and to allow us to die as Muslims.
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