BY Abul A`la Mawdudi
According to the Qur’an, men go astray in three ways. The first is to ignore the guidance of God and become slaves of desire. The second is to give precedence to family, culture, society, customs and the ways of forefathers over the law of God. The third is to ignore the way enunciated by God and His Messenger (peace be upon him) and follow the ways either of so-called important people or of other civilizations and cultures.
A True Muslim
A true Muslim should be free from these three ailments. Only someone who is a slave of
none but God and a follower of none but His Messengers can be truly called a Muslim.
A Muslim sincerely believes that the teaching of God and His Messenger is absolute truth, that whatever runs counter to it is false, and that it contains all that is good for man in this world and in the Hereafter. A Muslim who has complete faith in these truths will, at every step in his life, look only to God and the Messenger to guide him and submit to whatever they require.
Such a person will never feel troubled in his heart about obeying God’s commandments, or be concerned if members of his family or his society upbraid him, or if the entire world opposes him. In each case his response will be unequivocal: I am God’s slave, not yours; I have faith in His Messenger, not in you.
What is Hypocrisy?
Serving the Self
On the other hand, a person may say, ‘This may be the directive of God and the Messenger, but it is difficult for me to accept it because it seems to be harmful. So I shall act according to my own opinion as against the guidance of God and the Messenger.’
Obviously, no faith can be alive in the heart of such a person. He is not a true believer (mu’min) but a hypocrite (munafiq). While he verbally claims to be a servant of God and a follower of the Messenger, in reality he is a slave of his own self and a follower of his own opinions.
Adherence to Society and Culture
Similarly, a person may say that whatever the injunctions of God and the Messenger may be, a certain practice cannot be given up because it has been followed since the times of his forefathers. He, too, must then be reckoned among the hypocrites, however prominent the mark on his forehead traced by prostration in endless prayers and however pious his face.
The spirit of Islam has not entered his heart. Islam does not consist merely in bowing (ruku`, prostration (sujud) , Fasting (sawm) and Pilgrimage (Hajj); nor is it found in the face and dress of a man.
Islam means submission to God and the Messenger. Anyone who refuses to obey them in the conduct of his life-affairs has a heart devoid of the real Islam – ‘faith has not yet entered their hearts’. His Prayers, his Fasting and his pious appearance are nothing but deception.
Imitating Other People
Again, someone may, in defiance of the Book of God and the Messenger’s directions, urge thus: Such and such ideas and practices should be adopted because they are prevalent in the West; this particular behavior must be accepted because other nations are making progress because of it; this point should be conceded because an important person is advocating it. Such a person is in grave danger of losing his faith. This attitude is irreconcilable to iman (faith).
If you are Muslims and want to remain Muslims, then cast overboard every suggestion which is contrary to the injunctions of God and His Messenger. If you cannot, it ill behoves you to claim to be following Islam. To assert that you believe in God and the Messenger but to ignore their injunctions in the conduct of your lives in favor of other people’s thoughts and practices is neither iman nor Islam. It is sheer hypocrisy.
Allah leaves no doubt about the ridiculous nature of such conduct:
Indeed We have sent down revelations clearly showing the truth, but God guides whomsoever He will to a straight path. They say, ‘We believe in God and the Messenger, and we obey’. Then, after that, a party of them turn away; they are not (true) believers. And when they are called unto God and His Messenger that he may decide between them, behold, a party of them turn away; but if they are in the right, they will come unto him submitting willingly. What! Is there in their hearts sickness? Or are they in doubt? Or, do they fear that God and His Messenger may be unjust towards them?
Nay, it is they who are doing wrong. All that the believers say, whenever they are called unto God and His Messenger that he may judge between them, is that they say, ‘We hear, and we obey.’ It is they who are the successful.
Whoso obeys God and His Messenger, and fears God, and has awe of Him, it is they who shall triumph. (An-Nur 24:46-52)
Reflect on the definition of iman set out here. What is iman? It consists in submitting yourselves, willingly and totally, to the Book of God and the guidance given by His Messenger.
Whatever guidance and commandments are received from these sources you must implicitly obey and no arguments against them should be listened to, whether they come from your own minds, or from members of your families, or from outsiders. You can only be a Muslim if you develop this attitude. If you do not, you are no more than a hypocrite.
Compare, now, yourselves with those who had real and true iman in their hearts and see how they obeyed Allah and the Messenger.
The article is an excerpt from Abul A`la Al-Mawdudi’s book “Let Us Be Muslims”.