Islam

The Definition of a True Muslim

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Raziullah Noman Canada

With many Muslim scholars declaring other Muslims as non-Muslims in this day and age, it can be difficult to ascertain as to who is a true Muslim. Firstly, we should turn to the Holy Qur’an and see the Words of Allah. Allah the Almighty states about the Arab bedouins: 

قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ آمَنَّا  قُلْ لَمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَٰكِنْ قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ  وَإِنْ تُطِيعُوا اللهَ وَرَسُولَهُ لَا يَلِتْكُمْ مِنْ أَعْمَالِكُمْ شَيْئًا  إِنَّ اللَه غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَرْتَابُوا وَجَاهَدُوا بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنْفُسِهِمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللهِ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الصَّادِقُونَ 

The Arabs of the desert say, ‘We believe.’ Say, “You have not believed yet; but rather say, ‘We have accepted Islam,’ for the true belief has not yet entered into your hearts.” But if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not detract anything from your deeds Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.The believers are only those who truly believe in Allah and His Messenger, and then doubt not, but strive with their possessions and their persons in the cause of Allah. It is they who are truthful.[i] 

The Arabs of the desert would say they believe but, they were not yet true believers. For this reason, the Prophet Muhammad (sa) was told to say that you are Muslims but faith has not yet entered into your hearts. This shows that anyone who believes in Islam, is entitled to call themselves Muslims. The Qur’an does not allow anyone to declare another person a disbeliever if he recites the kalima (declaration of faith).

Then the question arises – what was the definition given by the Prophet Muhammad (sa)? When we turn to the ahadith (narrations of the Holy Prophet (sa)), we see that there are three main definitions of a Muslim.

The Prophet Muhammad (sa) stated:

اكْتُبُوا لِي مَنْ تَلَفَّظَ بِالإِسْلاَمِ مِنَ النَّاسِ

‘List the names of those people who have announced that they are Muslims’[ii]

This was said by the Prophet Muhammad (sa) when the population of Muslims was needed for a census in Madinah. At that time this was the only criteria. Anyone who declared that they were Muslims, were counted as Muslims in the eyes of the founder of Islam. 

The second definition mentioned some of the practices of Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad (sa) stated:

مَنْ صَلَّى صَلاَتَنَا، وَاسْتَقْبَلَ قِبْلَتَنَا، وَأَكَلَ ذَبِيحَتَنَا، فَذَلِكَ الْمُسْلِمُ الَّذِي لَهُ ذِمَّةُ اللَّهِ وَذِمَّةُ رَسُولِهِ، فَلاَ تُخْفِرُوا اللهَ فِي ذِمَّتِهِ

‘Whoever prays like us and faces our Qibla and eats our slaughtered animals is a Muslim and is under Allah’s and His Apostle’s protection. So do not betray Allah by betraying those who are in His protection.’[iii]

In this hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (sa) has given a warning to the Muslims. He knew that in the future some extremist Muslims would persecute other Muslims over their differences. He warned such extremists that by persecuting such innocent Muslims, they would be betraying Allah.

In the third hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (sa) stated:

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو خَالِدٍ الأَحْمَرُ، ح وَحَدَّثَنَا أَبُو كُرَيْبٍ، وَإِسْحَاقُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، عَنْ أَبِي مُعَاوِيَةَ، كِلاَهُمَا عَنِ الأَعْمَشِ، عَنْ أَبِي ظِبْيَانَ، عَنْ أُسَامَةَ بْنِ زَيْدٍ، وَهَذَا، حَدِيثُ ابْنِ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ قَالَ بَعَثَنَا رَسُولُ اللهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي سَرِيَّةٍ فَصَبَّحْنَا الْحُرَقَاتِ مِنْ جُهَيْنَةَ فَأَدْرَكْتُ رَجُلاً فَقَالَ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللهُ ‏.‏ فَطَعَنْتُهُ فَوَقَعَ فِي نَفْسِي مِنْ ذَلِكَ فَذَكَرْتُهُ لِلنَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ أَقَالَ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللهُ وَقَتَلْتَهُ “‏‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ إِنَّمَا قَالَهَا خَوْفًا مِنَ السِّلاَحِ ‏.‏ قَالَ ‏”‏ أَفَلاَ شَقَقْتَ عَنْ قَلْبِهِ حَتَّى تَعْلَمَ أَقَالَهَا أَمْ لاَ ‏“‏ ‏.‏ فَمَازَالَ يُكَرِّرُهَا عَلَىَّ حَتَّى تَمَنَّيْتُ أَنِّي أَسْلَمْتُ يَوْمَئِذٍ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَقَالَ سَعْدٌ وَأَنَا وَاللهِ لاَ أَقْتُلُ مُسْلِمًا حَتَّى يَقْتُلَهُ ذُو الْبُطَيْنِ ‏.‏ يَعْنِي أُسَامَةَ قَالَ قَالَ رَجُلٌ أَلَمْ يَقُلِ اللهُ ‏}‏وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّى لاَ تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ كُلُّهُ لِلهِ‏{‏ فَقَالَ سَعْدٌ قَدْ قَاتَلْنَا حَتَّى لاَ تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَأَنْتَ وَأَصْحَابُكَ تُرِيدُونَ أَنْ تُقَاتِلُوا حَتَّى تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ

It is narrated on the authority of Usama b. Zaid that ‘the Messenger of Allah (sa) sent us on an expedition. We raided Huraqat of Juhaina in the morning. I caught hold of a man and he said:“There is no god but Allah”, I attacked him with a spear. It once occurred to me and I talked about it to the Apostle (sa). The Messenger of Allah (sa) said: ‘Did he profess “There is no god but Allah,” and even then you killed him?’ I said: ‘Messenger of Allah, he made a profession of it out of the fear of the weapon.’ He observed: ‘Did you tear his heart in order to find out whether it had professed or not?’ And he went on repeating it to me till I wished I had embraced Islam that day. Sa’d said: ‘By Allah, I would never kill any Muslim so long as a person with a heavy belly, i.e., Usama, would not kill.’ Upon this a person remarked: ‘Did Allah not say: And fight them until there is no more mischief and religion is wholly for Allah?’ Sa’d said: ‘We fought so that there should be no mischief, but you and your companions wish to fight so that there should be mischief.’[iv]

The definitions given today by some Muslims are completely opposite to the words of the Prophet Muhammad (sa). Ahmadi Muslims believe all those who recite the kalima to be Muslims. Anything else spread in the media is either out of context or propaganda. 

The Fifth Caliph and current worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) stated:

‘The Ahmadiyya Community, according to the instructions of Allah and His Messenger (sa) believes everyone who recites the kalima is a Muslim. For someone to be a Muslim, it is enough for him to simply declare:

لَآ اِلٰهَ اِلَّااللهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ الله

And this is exactly what is proven from the ahadith’[v]

Speaking about the fact that some non-Ahmadi clerics have deemed Ahmadi Muslims to be non-Muslim, His Holiness (aba) said:

‘The Holy Prophet (sa) taught that no one has the right to call any person who utters the kalima to be a non-Muslim. The truth is that no human being or power has the right to deny what is in the heart of another person.’[vi]

Despite having been labelled by most of the Muslim world as non-Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims do not seek out the approval or attestation of others; rather Ahmadi Muslims are content so long as they fulfill the criteria establish by God and His Messenger (sa), as His Holiness (aba) states:

‘As far as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is concerned, neither have we ever asked a foreign power to grant us the status of ‘Muslims’ before the law and the constitution, nor have we ever begged any Pakistani government for this. We do not require a certificate from any assembly or government in order to be called Muslims. We call ourselves Muslims. We call ourselves Muslims because we are Muslims. Allah the Exalted and His Messenger (sa) have declared us to be Muslims. We pronounce the kalima [declaration of faith]: [there is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad(sa)is His messenger]. We believe in every pillar of Islam and article of faith. We have faith in the Holy Qur’an and believe the Holy Prophet (sa) to be Khatam-un-Nabiyeen [Seal of the Prophets] as Allah the Exalted has stated in the Holy Qur’an and as I have just recited. We have firm conviction that the Holy Prophet (sa) is Khatam-un-Nabiyeen.’[vii]


[i]The Holy Qur’an Chapter 49 Verses 15-16

[ii]Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 3060

[iii]Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith 391

[iv]Sahih Muslim, Hadith 96 a

[v]Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), Friday Sermon, 2ndDecember 2011

[vi]Question and Answer Session with Indonesian Guests, 28thSeptember 2013 – https://www.alislam.org/press-release/true-khilafat-compatible-with-democracy-head-of-ahmadiyya-muslim-jamaat/

[vii]Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba), Friday Sermon, October 13th2017