Just as we have fundamental beliefs in Al-Islam, we also have fundamental practices which we must observe. By increasing our knowledge of these fundamentals we increase our understanding of Al-Islam. These fundamental practices are the pillars upon which a Muslim’s entire Islamic life, which is based on the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad is structured.
If we do not have the courage to acknowledge the worship of Allah The Creator, and if we do not have the courage to live a life which shows others our worship of Him, then we are not strong enough to accept the first Pillar of our religion. When people declare themselves Muslims, they make their faith known by openly bearing witness that, “There is no deity except Allah, and Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger.”
A person who claims to be a Muslim, but who hides his faith is not a believer. When we openly bear witness that nothing is worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger, we are telling the world that Allah is One, and that Muhammad is not a divinity, but a Messenger of Allah. A Muslim must embrace Al-Islam in a public declaration. However, if he fears that making his declaration publicly may bring him harm, he may make it secretly, until such time as circumstances permit him to make it publicly. Even when the declaration is made secretly one must fulfill all his obligations and avoid what is forbidden. If he cannot fulfill obligations where he is, he must leave the areas of harm. The Holy Qur’an says, “My Servants who believe! Truly spacious is My Earth. Therefore serve Me [and Me alone]!” [Qur’an 29:56, The Spider] Thus Allah tells us that His Earth is large enough for us to travel to a place in it where we will not meet with opposition in observing our faith.
When people understand the message of Al-Islam and feel an obligation to declare themselves Muslims before Allah and before the Islamic community, their hearts are taking a courageous stand. Allah rewards their courage by blotting out all the sins in their past. Even if one is in confinement for a criminal act, all his previous sins are forgiven, regardless of what they may have been, when he makes his declaration to accept Al-Islam.
The Holy Qur’an says of the unbelievers, “If they stop it [associating things with Allah], they will be forgiven all that has gone before.” [Qur’an 8:38, The Spoils of War] Prophet Muhammad said, “Al-Islam wipes out all previous [misdeeds].” This tells us that when Christians, Jews or members of any other faith embrace Al-Islam, Allah annuls all their wrong actions, and they are as if they were reborn. No one has to submerge them in water. No one has to sprinkle them down. They are submerged into their hearts by the spirit of Allah which makes them say, “I’m not going to fight anymore. Allah, I want to be with You. I want to be on the side of the righteous. Today, I’m going to get rid of this shyness of mine. I’m going to tell the Imam, ‘I want to come up and declare my faith.”‘
When people walk up to declare their faith they sometimes look as if they are carrying a million pounds on their shoulders. Sometimes they come forward as if they have been locked up for a million years. Sometimes they come up as if they just broke out of jail. But most of them come up with courage. I’ve seen some break down in tears, sobbing while they were saying, “I bear witness that there is no god except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Messenger.” In addition to making the declaration of faith, those who are from Christian backgrounds should say, in
their hearts, “Jesus is not Allah, but one of His Prophets and Righteous Servants. I worship Allah only, and I reject all that I used to associate with Him.” It is recorded that during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad those who came to declare themselves to be Muslims, especially women, pledged not to give themselves to past wickedness and corruption. This was emphasized for women because life begins under the mothers and their state is thus of the utmost concern. There is an old saying, “Where there are no decent women, there can be no decent men [future generations].”
Repentance in AI-Islam means giving up sin, and it requires a wholehearted change in thought and deeds. We should strive to rid our minds and hearts of remembrance of the pleasure of sin. The effect of sin on our hearts (souls) is like that of poisoned honey on our physical bodies. We must seek knowledge to understand the causes, effects and punishments of sins, so we can better avoid them. Our repentance is acceptable to Allah if we are sincere.
When we understand that the destructive power of sin is poison, we can reach repentance. When the condition of repentance prevails in our minds and hearts, we desire to reject sins in the future, and to make amends for those of our past. When we are repentant, we consciously try to avoid situations which expose us to sin or temptation for the balance of our lives.
A man who makes the Declaration of Faith, but who brings about no change in his life has not accepted Al-lslarn in his heart. He must put his faith into practice in order for it to revolutionize his life. Allah is Merciful and Compassionate. He is always ready to pardon and to admit to His Grace those who are prepared to correct their attitudes and their behavior.
When a person accepts Al-Islam and then leads a virtuous, pious life in accordance with its teachings, all his previous misdeeds are erased because he has proven his sincerity by putting forth earnest efforts toward his moral uplifting. However, if he persists in the path of evil after accepting AI-Islam, he shows that his attachment to evil is stronger than his commitment to his faith. He is therefore entitled to no remission.
A follower of Prophet Muhammad once asked, “Do you think there is anything for me [of the reward with the Lord] for the good deeds I did in the state of ignorance?” Prophet Muhammad replied, “You accepted AI-Islam with all the previous acts of virtue that you practiced [in the state of ignorance]. “This tells us that Allah gives us credit for the good deeds we perform before accepting Al-Islam.
- Imam Warith Deen Mohammed – ‘Prayer and Al-Islam’