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What's a Non-Practicing Muslim?

Question and answer details
Tati Romi Tajudin
2014/01/05
Assalamu alaikum. When I join some pen pal sites, some people admit as practicing Islam and some others admit as non-practicing Islam. What is the meaning of this "practicing" word? Thank you very much. As-salamu alaikum. Romi
Idris Tawfiq
Answer

Salam Romi,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

It is actually very heartening that you do not even know what this "practicing" word means.

What Practicing Means

The answer is very simple to understand.

If you imagine, first of all, a medical doctor. He has spent several years at university learning all about Medicine and he then spends more years learning about being a doctor by being around other doctors and watching what they do.

Some doctors then specialize by going to work in a hospital. Others join a General Practice, where they work as a team with other doctors to cure the ills of patients who come to visit them. This is the kind of doctor most of us go to see.

Imagine, then, that our imaginary doctor joins this kind of General Practice and works in it for years.

After twenty years, say, he decides that he does not want to be a doctor any more, but wants to open a shop selling sweets and newspapers. So he leaves his work of being a doctor to work in his shop.

In this case we can say that this man is no longer practicing as a doctor, even though he is one. He has all the training and all the experience that make him a doctor, but he does not any more do any of the things that doctors do. He is no longer a practicing doctor.

In direct answer to your question, then, there are some Muslims who do not practice as Muslims. They no longer do the things that Muslims do, even though they may have been born Muslim and have lived with Muslims all their lives.

These are the people you may have come across on the Internet. They are Muslim, but they do not practice as Muslims. They do none of the things that Muslims usually do.

For example, they do not pray five times a day. They do not fast during Ramadan, they do not pay zakah, and so on. For whatever reason, they have stopped doing these things.

Not Practicing Apostasy

By calling themselves non-practicing Muslims, these people still consider themselves to be Muslim, or they would introduce themselves to you as ex-Muslims or they would say that they used to be Muslim or that they were once Muslim.

They have not taken the actual step of rejecting Islam and renouncing it. Such former Muslims are known as "apostates," since they have formally rejected Islam.

The non-practicing group is a different matter.

The reasons why they no longer pray may be very complicated. It could just be laziness. It could be the bad influence of the friends they hang around with.

It could be the bad example of other Muslims, who have put them off the whole idea of Islam, even they do not formally reject it. It could be the very subtle influence of television and the media, which make other lifestyles seem more attractive and more "modern" than the life of a Muslim.

Be Careful

Chatting to others on the Internet or meeting others through pen pal sites may seem a great way of interacting with others, especially in our Muslim societies, where mixing between the sexes without proper boundaries being set is discouraged.

However, we can come across a lot of unhealthy influences on such sites, talking to people who may seem very charming and very plausible in what they have to say, but whose ideas are quite opposed to those of Islam.

The influence they can have upon us may be very strong, making us question our own beliefs or attempt to copy the way they live their lives. Just be careful.

There are even people who go on these sites just to disturb the faith of others. They may be posing as your friend, but their aim is to bring you away from Islam.

Many of us know our own limits. Some of us do not. So be very careful in chatting with people who make the idea of not praying and not fasting seem a natural choice.

Allah alone knows the secrets of our hearts and it is He alone who sees the real intention of why we do things. So, it is not for us to point fingers at others. He alone, then, is the One who will judge us according to the way we have lived our lives.

For a Muslim not to pray it is a very serious matter. Not to fast during the month of Ramadan is very serious, since it is Allah who commanded us to do this. Not to pay zakah and not to go on the pilgrimage to Makkah, just because we do not want to, are both very serious things.

Not Practicing = Disobedience

In doing these things, non-practicing Muslims are willfully disobeying the will of Almighty Allah. Choosing to drink alcohol or to eat pork meat is not what Muslims do.

It may be "cool" to do as you wish, but in doing so you reject what Allah has commanded for your well-being. Muslims who act this way will answer on Judgment Day for the way they have acted.

It is not our place to judge anyone, since Allah is the only judge, but it seems that there are too many non-practicing Muslims in our world. They call themselves Muslim and they tell others that they are Muslim.

They fill in forms as Muslims and they may have "Muslim" written on their passport or ID card, but they act in a way that gives a very bad example of what Islam is like and they confuse non-Muslims about the real nature of Islam.

It would be better, surely, for such people to make no comment when they are asked what their religion is, rather than to give a bad example.

How to React

How should we react to such non-practicing Muslims?

Well, we can leave the judging to Allah, but we can do two things.

We can, first of all, point out the fact that what they are doing, as Muslims, is wrong. This can be done in a very simple and gentle way and it need not involve pointing fingers.

For example, the next time someone tells you that they are a non-practicing Muslim, you should simply point out that they may act as they choose, but that Muslims pray. The rest is up to them.

The other thing we can do is to give a good example, showing that obeying the commands of Almighty Allah might present us with some difficulties or some discomforts in this life, but that the rewards of doing so are paradise itself.

By living as good Muslims, we can tell the whole world what Islam is like,  even those who should know so already.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.

Salam.

Useful Links:

Criteria for True Faith

How to Be a True Muslim

True Teachings of Islam

Embracing Islam in Daily Life

My Prayer, Life and Death… for Allah


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