Islamic Character Islamic Studies With the Divine

Devotion to God

Becoming the Servants of the Most Merciful Series

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As we said about the last verse, a true servant of the Merciful lives for something greater than his or her self.

To a practicing Muslim, it is greatly disturbing and disheartening when we know people who identify themselves as Muslim yet do not pray, fast, give their yearly obligatory alms (zakat), seek knowledge or support the message of God: the basic pillars of Islam. This group of people often justifies their lack of spiritual devotion and obedience with the claim that since they do not commit major sins, they are still good Muslims who love God. Is it their love for God that leads them to disobey Him? To not make any attempt to build a relationship with Him the way He decreed?

When we remind them of the many texts in our divinely preserved scripture that condemn those who don’t obey God, especially regarding prayer, they respond: “God willing I will start soon!” That statement is completely broken inside and out. God has decreed you to pray to Him and you are choosing to turn your back on that as though you know what’s better for you than Him! You see, in the secular liberal environment which shapes our thinking, people decide that God and His revelation are either not really the word of God or – worse in my opinion – that they are  irrelevant to your life, while you still claim to believe in them. I once tried to convince some youth who did not pray by telling them, “Look, in your mind God is requiring you to take out just over an hour of your day to pray to Him and that’s difficult to you. The fact is, He is testing you by seeing if you will have the courage to put the One who created you, and provided you with everything you love, before yourself. By obligating you to pray, He is enveloping you in His Mercy and salvation.” The authentic hadith states, “The first thing a person will be judged upon on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayer. If it is good and right then the rest of his deeds will follow suit. If it (the prayer) was bad or empty then the rest of his deeds will follow suit.” (Albani)

There are others who murder, fornicate, drink alcohol, use drugs, etc. This group of Muslims are quite perplexing for their moral corruption. These people pray five times a day, fast in Ramadan and still commit major sins. They obviously have succumbed to the terrible disease which has afflicted the Muslim world: a cultural, ritualistic practice of Islam. God says in the Qur’an,

“…Establish the prayers for indeed the prayers prevent us from immorality and sin…” (Qur’an, 29:45)

Our early scholars’ commented that this verse also conveyed that those whose prayer did not prevent them from excessive immorality and major sin, their prayers are completely void of benefit. Let me clarify this meaning  so we don’t have someone who is struggling with sins just give up their prayers. No doubt praying while sinning is better than not doing so, but we obviously aren’t understanding and having a sincere spiritual presence from the prayer if it doesn’t avert us from a sinful lifestyle. So, although rewarded by God, we are not benefitting in the larger scheme of things. All of the pillars of Islam are indeed that, pillars of the foundation upon which your relationship with God is built. If those pillars are weak or corrupt, then there can be no stable building of value built upon them.

Then we have the group who refer to themselves as “Muslims” yet they do not follow Islam at all; they lead a lifestyle full of sin and corruption. This group generally calls themselves Muslim because they were born into a Muslim family, and they want to respect the culture of their lineage. The problem with all of these groups is in understanding the basic meaning of the word “Muslim.” A Muslim is not an Arab; it is not someone from a Muslim country; it is not a cultural label. “Muslim” is an Arabic word that refers to a specific lifestyle – to submitting to the will of God. To claim the noble title of a Muslim, one must, at least, be dedicated to trying to fulfill that.

The concept is simple. God created us and provided us with everything we have, and potentially can have and be. He in return asks us to show our love, obedience and loyalty as an act of gratitude, to be worthy of Paradise. This life is a test where we must discipline ourselves to go against our ego and desires in order to fulfill the divine purpose – pleasing God. That is to embrace divine unity and live in the service of God. This brings us to the next trait of the true Servants of the Merciful:


“Those who when they are reminded of the verses of their Lord, do not respond as though they are deaf and blind.” (Qur’an, 25:73)

This verse assumes that the listener has verified that they are listening to the miracle of divine guidance. We teach our children about Islam with rules, regulations, and routine worship often void of meaning, but we do not set the foundation of proof, that certainly this is the final message of God and not a religion based on folklore. To fix this gap in faith and devotion, especially in the western world, we must build a strong platform for teaching our children about the miracles of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This can be the physical miracles he performed, the miraculous nature of the Qur’an, the sublime beauty and humanly perfection of his character, the miraculous results of his propagation of Islam, or the miraculous outcomes of the wars they won.

We must continue to build that foundation in ourselves and our youth. It will compliment their knowledge with an environment conducive to nurturing an Islamic lifestyle, so when those who were brought up in this manner are reminded of scripture, they will respond like true Muslims, “We hear and we obey.” This is truly the statement of someone whose life is about something greater than themselves. Thus we say, Allahu Akbar! God is greatest.

We pray the Merciful bless us with the means by which we can become His servants. Ameen.

About the author

John (Yahya) Ederer

John (Yahya) Ederer

Imam John Yahya Ederer left a life of spiritual decadence and embraced Islam in 1998. In 2002, he accepted a scholarship offer from the Islamic American University in Michigan and spent 6 years travelling the Muslim world studying with prominent scholars. He attained an associates with IAU, a certification of mastery of the Arabic sciences from the ministry of education in Egypt, a diploma in Islamic Studies from the Cordoba Institute in Kuwait and a license with one of the highest chains of transmission in Qur’an memorization and recitation. He served as the Religious Director of the Islamic Foundation of South Florida for two years and now lives with his wife and two children in Charlotte, North Carolina where he serves as Imam of the Muslim American Society. He currently sits on the clergy board of one of the largest interfaith coalitions in Mecklenburg Ministries and is a board member of the Shamrock Drive Development Association.

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  • Good article, ma sha Allah. I have one positive criticism: when citing hadith it is better to cite the motherbook (Bukhari, Muslim, etc.) instead of a latter day scholar. It is best to cite the motherbook and the volume within it (i.e. Book of Prayer, Book of Faith, etc.).

    Allah knows best. Barak Allah feek.

  • I would hate to be become old, set like concrete and accustomed to corruption so that my vision for humility was blinded by my own ego.
    Recognising that we choose to turn our backs on God and just as easily we can turn back to Him is seeing with both eyes. It’s not enough to explain that we are Muslim, we must show it. We hear, and insha’Allah, we obey.

    Excellent guidance. Jazak’Allah khairan. *uses soul polish with brello*

  • JazakAllah Alf Khair for this great reminder,
    it is so true that we need to provide the young ones with proof that indeed Islam is the best way of life, we must teach them the sciences and history of Islam in a comprehensive manner so that the message of Islam does not fade away from their hearts inshaAllah…

  • Assalamualaikom,

    Even between muslim brotherhood, we are in different steps of the stairs, maybe some are blind and deaf, others just blind or deafs and others can see and listen. I don´t see this as a condition to judge, I think this is an opportunity for the ones that are awake to get ready to be there when the ones that are sleeping, wakes up. When they wake up, they will need guidance and support to begin to walk, like babies, then the ones that already has passed through that are ready for them, with consciousness of their process, without judging, being supportive, being there,…
    I cannot say this is because I´m strong, or my willpower, or because I´m humble, or because I do the right thing, …if He wants He takes everything from me, then who I am to tell anybody if it is doing right or wrong, no way to judge, no way to critizise, the only thing I´m able to do is praying God to help me to be my best, to be ready for the others anytime they need me.
    When God calls us, there is no way around, when He calls us, He calls us, then I believe all of us has a time to be called then get ready for it. If He is so Patient with us, who am I to be in a hurry? Even to be a Servant of Him we need His approval, then who I am to judge others.
    Surrender to Him, surrender to His message, it is not a question of being right is a question of kneeling in the floor feeling completely that He is the Only One
    Thank you for listening to me. God bless you all.


    • Wa alaikum as-salam,

      Ma Sha Allah sister your feelings are well received and on point to a large extent. The point here is not for me to judge anyone as that is unfair and God will judge all of us. The fact is that this article is not random, rather it is part of a series about the servants of The Merciful. This particular part of the series was about the verse which says that the Servants of the Merciful are not those who are -to a large part- irresponsive or neglectful to His message. If you look at the examples we are talking about extremes not people who miss a prayer every now and then or tell a lie here and there.

      JAK 🙂

  • Assalamu alaykum

    Al Hamdulilah, it was a good reminder, and I personally found benefit in it. However, I feel as though it could have been written in a better way. What I mean by that is that I feel like your criticism of, I guess you can call them “Bad Muslims” is a little more harsher then necessary. I’m not denying that these guys have a tendency to put off the deen to a later date, or, as you put it, believe that religion is irrelevant to life. What I am saying, however, is that if one of those guys read this post, they probably wouldn’t come back to this website mainly because of the way they are being talked about.

    These are our brothers and sisters who are struggling or perhaps have already been drowned in the dunyaa. The last thing we want is that they stay away from Allah and in the Dunyaa.

    Please forgive me if I offended you or anyone else. Again, I liked the article in that is was a good reminder for myself.

    Assalamu alaykum

    • JAK Brother, please see the previous comment to Maria. By the way some people are just plain ignorant and God knows I was and sometimes can be. This article is not about critisicm or judging people, it is about knowing where we stand we The Merciful according to Him and taking a serious look at that and trying to rectify our relationship with Him on His terms to the best of our ability.

  • Salam alaikum,
    I´m sorry for my ignorance, it seems I misanderstood your message. I´m reading the other chapters of this serie and I´m wordless. Thank you very much for guiding me, and for your loving patiente.
    God bless you.

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