Muslim, Mu'min or Hypocrite – Who Am I?
What is the difference between a Muslim, a Mu’min and a hypocrite? Do you know where you fall in the scale?
In Islam, it is the heart, rather than the mind, that guides one's actions. When heart is filled with Islam, the actions of the person will personify the faith in his heart. If the heart, being the core of the human self, is devoid of Islam, then in turn, the mind and body will also crystallize the lack of belief in the heart.
What is a Muslim?
A Muslim is a follower of the monotheistic religion of Ibrahim AS and Muhammad SAW: the worship of one God. A Muslim accepts the words of Allah and follows the teachings of the Prophet SAW, and is one who is in constant remembrance of Allah, through his invocations, supplications and actions.
There are various ahadeeth which explain the characteristics of a Muslim. One of the most famous ones is nicknamed the "Jibril Hadith", because in it, the Angel Jibril AS,in the form of a human traveller, appeared before Muhammad SAW and a few of his Companions to teach and reinforce the Prophet SAW on the basic elements of the deen. The hadith covers a breadth of topics, including the essential tenets of faith.
Part of the hadith sets the foundation for explaining the difference between a Muslim and a Muhsin. In it, Islam, and by extension, the fundamental requirements of Muslim practice is explained:
'Islam is that you witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and you establish the prayer, and you give the Zakat, and you fast Ramadan, and you perform the hajj of the House if you are able to take a way to it.'
The above criteria encapsulate the essential outward elements of Islamic rituals, also known as the pillars of Islam, which all of use should be familiar with.
What about the Muslim heart?
This is just as essential, because if the heart is corrupted, then it is uncertain whether any of the above rituals, even if performed with physical perfection, will be accepted by Allah. Islam starts from within – the heart is the originator, the starting point and the initiator. It is through the heart that actions are guided, not just during times of prayer, but essentially, all day and night.
Many ahadeeth discuss the Muslim characteristics, and this topic takes years of study. However, one of these is set out in the following summary which was reported by Abdullah Ibn Umar RA:
"The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe." (Bukhari)
Safety in this context implies a wide scope of actions. A true Muslim has peace in his heart; but moreover, he promotes safety for himself and others. A Muslim does not cause harm, either to himself or to others around him, such as his friends, relatives and neighbours. He feels at peace with himself, and those around him feel at peace with him.
A Muslim safeguards his eyes, his tongue and his heart from harming others. In short, a Muslim avoids things that do not concern him, and does not waste time indulging in things which do not benefit him.
How does one achieve this? It involves having a heightened sense of self-awareness, because without this vigilance, human beings have the dangerous potential to destroy themselves and others.
The early scholars advised that in order to remain obedient to Allah, one has to benefit those who are in need of benefit, and to stop those from committing mischief. Thus, the starting point is to stop causing damage to others with your tongue and your heart. Refrain from using bad words and harbouring bad feelings.
A Muslim tries to be patient over the oppressor, gives good advice to those who are in need of it, treats others with compassion and mercy, and tries to gain the maximum of good deeds at every juncture. A Muslim is alert of the needs of others and has no hesitation sharing his wealth or property with the needy. He does not lie, nor does he take the truth lightly. He keeps his commitment, time, oath and covenant. He loves truth, even if it is against himself. He shuns everything that Allah hates, and joins everything Allah loves.
What is a Mu'min?
Similarly, many ahadeeth explain this issue. In gist, a Mu’min is recognised by the way he carries himself and affects those around him. The following is a glimpse of many ahadeeth and scholarly opinion on what constitutes a Mu’min.
When you see the Mu'min, he reminds you of Allah. If he talks, he makes you closer to Allah and if you need him (as in you are in need), you will find him. TheMu’min is the one in whom people find peace, and are guarded from him – tongue, body and money. Others say that the Mu’min is all spiritual bounty. He benefits you in all aspects - whether you seek him, share with him, consult him or even walk with him.
The early people used to say that a Mu’min is one who, when you see him, is a cure for you. If he talks to you, he imparts wisdom. Even looking at the smiling, calm and tranquil demeanour of a Mu’min would generate benefit and happiness, even before the Mu’min starts talking.
The Mu’min's goodness is abundant, and his badness is rare. Another telling sign is that the Mu’min says little – he does not indulge in idle talk, because he is constantly engaged in action. He is always a companion of silence, and his time is rich with contemplation. His compassion is his own company, he talks with rahmah or mercy, and these qualities make him easy to love.
The nafs of a Mu’min is low – he is not a slave to his desire or base instincts, for he does not care to compete for life's riches, nor for his reputation in the material world. He need not walk with arrogance, haste or pride. He is not in anger or ignorance. He exercises supreme self-control, avoids arguments, and if someone makes him angry, he is just to that person. When people err, he forgives. If anyone insults him, he does not retaliate. He is easy to be with and one hardly sees him angry. He is straightforward in his speech and actions.
In the Jibril Hadith, the qualities of ehsan (being the qualities owned by a Mushin – someone who is a higher level than a Muslim) are also explained. It means to "worship Allah as though you are seeing Him, and while you see Him not yet truly He sees you.” A Mushin is in the ultimate state of God consciousness, aware of Allah at every given moment, whether or not he is alone. He is extremely aware of Allah’s closeness and presence all the time, and it is this heightened consciousness that constantly dictates all his actions.