Many people have told me that I have got my title all wrong. The correct title is "trying to be Mukmin" not "Trying to be Muslim". I beg to differ. To me, my title is exactly accurate to ME. I do not know if this title applies to others but it does apply to me. I do not expect people to agree with me and I do not impose my views on others but I do want to share my experience because I do feel that there are many like me.
You see, For years, I really thought that I was truly a Muslim. I was born a Muslim, I was taught to pray and recite the Quran. I fasted and celebrated Eid. That was enough right? Actually, it wasn't. I remember an incident when I was still in University in UK in 1995, where a fellow dorm-mate had asked me about hijab. He though hijab was a nationality thing, like the African ladies who wear a turban like head-covering. The first thing that I wanted to do, was to smack him in the head for being so ignorant but I didn't. Laughingly, I told him I'm not African and no, its not a nationality thing. In 1996, Islam was not as widespread and most UK residents have never heard of a country called 'Malaysia'. I painstakingly explained to him, (his name was Richard) that hijab is part of the religion that I believe in i.e. Islam. So I told him that in Islam, women are like precious jewels, that we only reveal our beauty to our husbands and permitted members of the family. I confidently told him that this is part of the teachings of the Holy Quran but honest to God, I did not know at that time, which verse in which this teaching lies.
That incident and a few others got me thinking. What is Islam anyway? All that I have been taught were rituals in Islam but how do one become a Muslim? I needed answers but first I need to know the definition of a 'Muslim', so I picked up the most logical book to me (being a law student), the Oxford English Mini dictionary.! According to the dictionary a 'Muslim' is :-
"a. of or believing in Muhammad's teaching. - n.believer in this faith."
Hhmmm...let me see...I believe that Prophet Muhammad pbuh is our messenger but I did not know any of his teachings.....OMG!!!!!!! I don't even fall within the definition of Islam in the Oxford Mini dictionary!!!!!!
I then looked at the definition of 'Muslim' in the BIG Oxford Dictionary and the definition is
"a.relating to Muslims or their religion. - n. a follower of religion of Islam."
That is bad...I felt like a impostor, a fraud! I was arrogantly declaring myself to be something that I was not. I was not a follower because I did not follow. I was not a believer because I did not have any knowledge of what I was supposed to believe in. I did the basic ritual but it was not enough. I can't call myself a chef just because I know how to boil an egg! I can't call myself a doctor just because I know CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, in case you guys are wondering!). To me, I can't call myself a Muslim just because I follow (not diligently) certain basic rituals in Islam.
Years after, I asked the Old Wise Man about the true definition of a 'Muslim' and he said that being a Muslim, to him, is to fully submit to the Will of God. I looked at him blankly and, " what is the Will of God?" His answer was, " lets go back to basic. Study and understand about the pillars of eaman and Islam." The Old Wise man also said, being a 'Muslim' is not about the title or status, but it is what's inside your heart. Does your heart accept wholly and unconditionally Islam?. I remember reading about the journey of a born Jewish journalist named Leopold Weiss. His journey into Islam was one of the most moving stories I have ever read. He said that his heart accepted Islam before his mind did and that he was already living like Muslim. After that, he recited his syahadah and took the name Muhammad Asad.
His story is a living example that being a Muslim is not just in the name or declaring to be one. Islam is a way of life and being a Muslim is to follow the Islamic way of life. In fact, there is no need for a person who reverts to Islam to change his or her name. He can still be known as 'Geoffery' or 'Susan'.
I then understood that before I could really admit that I am a 'Muslim', I must live like one. I must know what Islam is and most important of all, I must fulfill all the conditions and criteria of a 'Muslim'. Until then, I shall remain to be "trying to be Muslim'.......