Becoming a Muslim: How to become a Muslim

Q59 :What are the procedures and requirements if one wishes to convert to Islam?

A59 : The adoption of the religion of Islam is very simple. Nothing is required except a declaration by the person concerned that he believes in Allah as the only God and in Muhammad (peace be upon him) as His messenger. What this declaration actually means is an acceptance that worship can be offered only to Allah and that the authority to legislate rests solely with Allah. Man's position is to obey and implement Allah's laws, whatever they are. Should the law of any authority, government, parliament, society or tribal council clash with Allah's laws then the latter must be implemented without any question. The Prophet says what may be translated as follows: "No creature may be obeyed in what constitutes disobedience of the Creator." Now, how do we know Allah's legislation? The second half of our declaration provides the answer to this question. Our acknowledgment of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as Allah's messenger means that we accept him as the man through whom Allah has conveyed to us the code of legislation He wants us to implement in our lives for our own benefit. It is through Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that the Qur'an has been sent down to us as the book containing the divine constitution for human life. Prophet Muhammad's own pronouncements serve as an explanatory memorandum for the Qur'an, providing the details of what the Qur'an may state in general terms, and giving us guidance on how to implement the Qur'an in our lives. Thus, obedience to Allah necessitates obedience to His messenger. Indeed, Allah commands us: "Whatever the messenger gives you, accept it, and whatever he forbids you, refrain from it."(59;7) Thus the declaration means that Allah is the only God to be worshipped, that obedience to Him and submission to His law is an essential part of worshipping Him and that Muhammad (peace be upon him), His messenger, is the one who has taught us how to worship Allah and conveyed to us His laws. Anyone who makes this declaration, fully convinced of it, is a Muslim. The Arabic wording of the declaration is: "Ashhadu an la ilaha illallah, wa Ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasolullah." This translates as follows: "I testify that there is no deity save Allah and I further testify that Muhammad is His messenger." Once this declaration is made by anyone, in full consciousness of its significance, then the person making it becomes a Muslim. Anyone who is embracing Islam is required, however, to have full ablution, that is, a complete bath at the time he makes the declaration. This is a gesture which symbolizes washing off all one's past misdeeds. No Muslim is held accountable for any thing he or she did before adopting Islam. When one becomes a Muslim, one is required to do all the things Muslims do and to refrain from all those things which are not allowed to be done. This should not prove difficult as many people do observe Islamic teachings throughout the world. It requires, however, a fair measure of determination to conduct one's life in the manner which is sure to win Allah's pleasure. To give a brief sketch of what is required of a Muslim, we mention the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The first is the declaration we have already mentioned. Secondly, a Muslim must attend regularly to his or her prayers. These have a specific form which must be learned. A Muslim prays five times every day of his life. This may sound quite a heavy burden but hardly any practicing Muslims finds that prayers interfere with his work. What is required here is a reasonable amount of adaptability. Prayers are invaluable in maintaining one's consciousness of Allah and reminding one of the need to obey His commandments at all times and in all situations. Thirdly, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk throughout the lunar month of Ramadhan. When they fast, Muslims abstain from food, drink and sex. Fasting is a great exercise of self-discipline and it is greatly beneficial to the individual and to the community. Fourthly, Muslims who own more than the equivalent of 634 gm. of silver are required to give away every year a portion of their wealth, not less than 2.5 percent, to the poor. Eight class of people may benefit from this share which is termed zakah, or purifying alms. When we remember that this payment share is imposed on capital, not on income, we realize that the amount raised is substantial and it goes a long way toward wiping out poverty. The last pillar of our religion is pilgrimage, which must be performed by those who have the physical and financial ability to do it. The requirement is to offer pilgrimage at least once in one's lifetime. A Muslim must also refrain from all sinful acts such as murder, adultery, drinking, lying, stealing and all corruption generally. Islam is a religion of serious morality and strict discipline. So, a Muslim must always weigh up his actions before doing them and avoid all kinds of sin. Should he yield to temptation and commit a sin, he should repent and pray for Allah's forgiveness. According to Islam, all Muslims are equal and should be treated equally. The Prophet has emphasized this on many occasions and Allah lays down the only criterion of distinction among Muslims. He says in the Qur'an: "The noblest among you, in the sight of Allah, is the most God-fearing." (49;13). Yet people may not live up to this very important requirement. Family or tribal or national considerations may lead to different modes of discrimination. Islam shuns such practices. It is often the case, however, that people's practices fall short of their ideals. We have, therefore, to distinguish between what Islam lays down and what Muslims do. A point which is often raised by readers is that which concerns one's family. This is a tricky question which I am attempting to explain. Obviously, there is no problem when both man and wife make the same decision together. Their children should be brought up as Muslims. If the children are of age, they should not be forced to follow their parents' example but they should be encouraged to learn about Islam and make their own decision. Problems arise, however, when either husband or wife decides to go for it alone and embraces Islam. It is always to be remembered that Islam lays down that the adoption of faith must come through personal conviction. No compulsion or pressure should be exercised on one's partner. That does not preclude wise counsel and friendly persuasion. When such caring efforts go in vain then one has to make up one's decision according to one's own circumstances. The easiest of these cases is when the husband decides to adopt Islam but his wife decides to stick to her own religion which happens to be either Christianity or Judaism. Islam has enough common grounds with these two divine religions to allow marriages between Muslim men and Christian or Jewish women. It only asks the husband in such a marriage to bring up his children in the same way as all Muslim parents bring up their children. There is, therefore, no reason for a new convert to Islam to divorce or separate from his Christian or Jewish wife. They may continue to live together for the rest of their lives. When the wife follows any religion other than these two, or if she does not believe in Allah at all, then the marriage is automatically nullified. Allah commands us in Qur'an: "Do no hold on to your marriages with unbelieving women." (60;10). This is because the family is of prime importance as the basic unit of society. It is the mother who looks after the children who, in turn, form the future generation. An unbelieving mother cannot be trusted to enhance in her children the natural tendency to believe in Allah. As we say in Arabic; "He who has not got something cannot give it to others." Should the wife only decide to become a Muslim, her marriage to her non-Muslim husband is considered null and void the moment she makes the declaration which makes her a Muslim. This ruling applies whether the husband is a Christian or a Jew or a follower of any other belief. There is no disagreement among the various schools of thought as to the nullity of the marriage if only the wife adopts Islam. Some, however, enforce an immediate separation for a period equivalent to a divorcee's waiting period (nearly three months), before the marriage is declared null and void. The idea here is that in any family the man is the master. He is in charge of the house and the protector of his wife and children. For a Muslim woman to be in such a relationship with an unbeliever is not acceptable. This question has been the subject of a great deal of discussion in recent years as more and more people adopt Islam and the problem becomes increasingly common. The fact remains that no one has come up with a different ruling supported by the Qur'an or by some pronouncements of the Prophet. Allah declares in the Qur'an on the question of relationship between believing women who have recently accepted Islam and unbelievers: "They (the women) are not lawful to them in marriage nor they (i.e. the unbelieving men) are lawful to them (as husbands)." It is an established rule of Islam that no ruling made by Allah in the Qur'an or by an authentic pronouncement of the Prophet may be challenged by any argument, no matter how logical it may sound. For Allah has taught us what remains best for us in all ages and societies.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )