While there are denominational differences, here’s how to practice the basics and get on what Muslims call the “Straight Path.”
- Step 1: Establish relationships with other Muslims, especially during holidays. While all Muslims are united by their faith, it makes sense to seek out Muslims with interests similar to yours, so that you can maintain satisfying friendships.
- TIP: Don’t despair over your bad deeds. If you make an error, repent to God, make amends with those you have wronged, and remember that God’s mercy outweighs his wrath.
- Step 2: Focus on the transient nature of human life. The life of this world is like a competition in which people compete with one another to do good deeds, said God in the Quran. Paradise is the prize.
- TIP: If you don’t feel at home in your local mosque or Muslim community, you can now join “virtual communities” of Muslims meeting online through social networking and or even virtual-reality websites.
- Step 3: Strive to draw closer to God, whether by reading the Quran, increasing your prayers, or helping others. God is always watching, always available. As He told the prophet: “I am closer to you than your jugular vein.”
- FACT: There are more than 1.3 billion Muslims in the world today, making Islam the world’s second-largest religion behind Christianity.
- Step 4: When in doubt, hold fast to your statement of faith, “There is no God but God.” Whenever you need help or guidance, ask God first.
- Step 5: Put time and effort into maintaining relationships with family members. Parents are due a special amount of respect and deference. Said the prophet: “Paradise is found at the feet of mothers.”
- Step 6: Gradually familiarize yourself with the Islamic law based on the prophet’s life, which includes guidance on everything from diet and sex to business and politics.
- Step 7: Stay away from sinful deeds, such as stealing, oppressing others, or engaging in sex outside of marriage. The biggest sin in Islam is known as shirk, or denying the oneness of God.
- TIP: When someone once declared to Muhammad that he would do nothing more or less than follow Islam’s most basic rules, the prophet replied, “If he does what he says he will do, he will enter Paradise.”
- TIP: Muhammad offers this helpful advice—stay away from doubtful things. In other words, it’s not just about willpower; it’s also about avoiding situations where you might be tempted.
- Step 8: Do good deeds on a regular basis, either anonymously or in person. Small deeds done consistently may be worth more than one-off spurts of generosity.
- Step 9: Learn about the Prophet Muhammad’s life and character by attending a class, reading books, or talking with knowledgeable Muslims. As one of his wives said, the Prophet was a “walking Quran,” embodying the will of God, and therefore Muslims should emulate him.
- TIP: Purify your intention when performing acts of charity. God said through the Prophet Muhammad: “Every action is judged according to its intention.”
- Step 10: Observe the five pillars of Islam. This means testifying to your faith, praying five times a day, fasting for the month of Ramadan, giving in charity each year, and—if possible—making the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your life.