How to be a Muslim and what to do next
First your heart has to believe in the Oneness of Allah sincerely, based on knowledge, so the first step is to know about Allah through the Book He revealed to us (the Quran) and to use the rational proofs found in His creation. In everything from the creation of Allah, there is a sign proving His Oneness and Perfection. All of the creation and what it contains from perfect wonders and the absolute wisdom, indicates the perfection of Allah’s power, will, wisdom and mercy. As a result you believe and accept sincerely that Allah is The Only One Who has the right to to be worshipped and to be obeyed because Allah is the Only Creator and there is no Creator but Him; He is The All-Strong and All-Mighty and no one is stronger than Him; He is The Conqueror and everyone submits to Him; He provides for and sustains the entire creation and we are all in need of Him. This belief in the oneness of Allah will make your heart submit to Allah with complete obedience. The word Islam comes from submission and surrendering to Allah.
To be a Muslim you need to learn about the pillars of faith and believe in them, these pillars are:
1. Belief in Allah:
It means to firmly believe that Allah is The Lord of everything and its Owner, and that He Alone is The Creator of the universe. Belief in Allah also means to believe that none deserves to be worshipped other than Allah, Who has no partners and that all other deities worshipped beside Him are false and worshipping such deities is void too.
Allah says in the Quran (that which means):
That is because Allah – He is the Truth (The Only True God of all that exists, Who has no partners or rivals with Him), and what they (the polytheists) invoke besides Him, is falsehood.- And verily, Allah, He is The Most High, The Most Great.
[Quran, chapter 22:62]
This verse indicates that Allah has the Attributes of Perfection and the Qualities of Magnificence. Besides, He is far above all deficiencies and faults. (*)
This is the basis on which the other Pillars of Faith are founded.
2. Belief In The Angels
The Angels are from the matters of the unseen (i.e. require belief in their existence, but they cannot be seen. These matters include, events in the grave and Hereafter and more). They are created by Allah and they worship Him. They have no attributes that qualify them to be gods or lords. Allah created them from light, and He bestowed on them the bounty of obeying Him at all times. He gave them the power to carry out and implement His orders. (*)
3. Belief In The Books
Books, here means the Books that Allah sent down to His Messengers as a mercy and guidance for mankind. These Books are designed to lead mankind to what brings them happiness in this life and in the Hereafter, like the Quran, sent down to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, the Torah, sent down to Moses, the Injeel (the Gospel), sent down to Jesus and the Zaboor (the Psalms), sent down to David. We also believe in the other Books, sent down by Allah, even though we do not know their names, and we believe that all previous Books were overruled by the Quran.
Allah said, that which means,
“And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the Book (this Quran) in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it and dominant over it.”
[Quran, chapter 5:48]
This means that the Quran is dominant over all other Books. Therefore, no commandment contained in other than the Quran can be implemented unless it is in agreement with the Quran. (*)
4. Belief In the Messengers
The Messengers are sent to deliver a Message. They are the ones to whom Allah has sent down revelation and who convey His Laws to mankind. Allah ordered them to deliver these Messages.
The first Messenger to be sent was Noah and the last one was Muhammad, peace be upon him. Allah said, that which means:
All the Messengers were sent by Allah with the same message: Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him.
Allah says in the Quran (that which means):
And We did not send any messenger before you (O Muhammad) but We revealed to him (saying): “None has the right to be worshiped but I (Allah), so worship Me (Alone and none else).”
[Quran, chapter 21:25]
A Muslim has to believe that the Messengers are only humans and they do not possess any attributes that qualify them to be gods. Likewise, we as Muslims, believe in all the Messengers. (*)
5. Belief In the Last Day
The Last Day is the Day when mankind will be resurrected to be judged according to their deeds and receive reward or punishment for them. It is called “the Last Day,” because it is the last day, and there will be no day after that. Afterwards, people of Paradise will permanently reside and take their places in it, and people of Hell will permanently reside and take their places in it. (*)
6. Belief In the Pre-decree (Al-Qadar)
Al-Qadar is Allah’s pre-decree of everything and everyone, from sustenance, to life and death and so forth, according to His Knowledge and Wisdom. (*)
Everything in this life happens by the Decree of Allah. Nothing happens except Allah decreed it.
Secondly, with this sincere belief in your heart and your submission to Allah, you say the ‘Shahadah’, you testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, peace be upon him, is His slave and Messenger.
Realizing the essence of this testimony, that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, is a result of sincerity to Allah. Realizing the essence of testifying that Muhammad, peace be upon him, is His slave and Messenger, comes as a result of following his guidance and example. This magnificent testimony leads to many sweet results. It frees the hearts and souls from being enslaved to the creation and from following other than the Messenger.
The testimony of faith is the first pillar of Islam, then you fulfill the remaining pillars and it’s pronounced in Arabic as follows:
There are five pillars of Islam:
1. The testimony that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, peace be upon him, is His slave and Messenger (i.e. shahaadah)
2. To establish prayer
Which means to worship Allah by praying to Him alone. One must preserve the five daily prayers by establishing them on their times and in the best manner, as taught by the Prophet, peace be upon him. Rewards for establishing the prayers include tranquility and happiness that are felt in the heart. Prayer also leads one to abandoning evil deeds and behavior.
3. To give Zakaat (obligatory charity),
This is worshipping Allah by paying the amount of charity obligated on the ones who have enough money or possessions that require paying Zakat, which is just 2.5% of your wealth. Paying the required Zakat leads to cleansing the heart from the evil of misery. It also fulfills the needs of Islam and Muslims.
4. To fast Ramadhan
Fasting the month of Ramadhan contains worshipping Allah by fasting during the days of this month, by not eating or drinking from dawn to sunset. Fasting trains the souls to abandon what is preferred and desired, seeking the pleasure of Allah.
5. To perform Hajj (pilgrimage).
This is worshipping Allah by visiting the Holy House (Ka’bah in Mecca) to perform the rituals of Hajj. Hajj trains the souls to spend time and physical effort, seeking to obey Allah. (*)
This pillar – Hajj – is obligated on only those who are capable of performing it.
Above pillars are the base of which you will establish your worship upon.
Allah is The All-Gentle (Ar-Rafeeq), and He knows that there are many things we need to learn before we put them into practice, so we start to learn and to put in practice the pillars of Islam step by step. After accepting Islam we have to start to learn how to pray as it is the most important worship after our testimony of faith, then we have to learn how to fast in Ramadhan then we fast it, then we have to learn how to pay zakah if we are entitled to pay it, and finally if we have the capability to make pilgrimage to Mecca (in Saudi Arabia), we learn about it then we perform it as soon as we can.
But it can happen that one starts to pray and to practice the rest of the pillars of Islam but still he might feel that he doesn’t doesn’t fear Allah or he might not glorify Allah with his heart, so I say to this person that he won’t be able to love or to fear Allah, to glorify Allah except if he learns about Allah. You have to learn about His perfect and beautiful names, and if you learn about Allah (from Quran, or from the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), you will definitely love Allah. You will learn that Allah has attributes by which we have to fear Him and to hope in Him. Our worships should be based on our love to Allah, while fearing His punishment and hoping for His mercy and reward.
We need also to learn about Quran, to understand the words of Allah, and this is done by reading the Quran together with a trusted explanation (Tafseer), with the intention of acting upon what we understood from it. We start by the first chapter, Al-Fatihah, as we need to recite it in our prayers, then we can learn the sayings of Prophet Muhammad and his biography, peace be upon him.
We have to understand how to establish our Tawheed (Believing in the oneness of Allah and how to be from those who worship Him Alone) and this should be our main concern now and for the rest of our lives.
Finally, when Allah guides you to Islam and when you lovingly submit to Him with sincere belief, make sure you thank Allah for the greatest bounty you could ever receive … finding your Lord.
(*) A summary from Shaikh Ibn Uthaymeen’s words.