Ten Tips for Becoming More “Practicing” Believers

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The only difference between shortchanging the IRS and shortchanging on Khums is that the former will land you in jail, whereas the latter will put you in hell. Ideally we would like to avoid both, but if we had to choose one, we would definitely take jail time over hell time.

Every time we read an inspiring article or hear a motivating speech, we resolve to abandon some of our un-Islamic habits, persevere steadfastly in our wajibaat, and generally become more “practicing”. But due to the lack of any practical ideas or steps, these resolutions usually do not last for more than an hour after the initial epiphany. Following is a list of ten very common issues that most of us seem to falter when it comes to our Islamic obligations. By improving in each of these areas, we can exponentially increase our nearness to our Creator and minimize/eliminate the punishment of Allah that would most certainly await us otherwise.

Telling the Truth

Avoiding unwanted telephone calls (“Tell them I’m not home!”) and trying to obtain undeserved discounts from inexperienced young staff at the local butcher (“Yeah, yeah, your boss knows me, he always gives me a 25 percent discount!”) is, well, dishonest and un-Islamic. Small lies, big lies, and even white lies should be avoided at all times. As good believers, we should always be telling the truth!

Praying on Time

One of the major inconveniences of our favorite TV shows it that they are always broadcast at Maghrib time. Despite having seen every episode half a dozen times over the span of our childhood, we can’t help but gamble every time over whom we love more: Allah or Homer Simpson? And for those of us who are smart enough to know that our Creator’s importance is greater than Matt Groening’s creation, the Morning Prayer is a whole other battle. I’m not too sure why most of us “don’t have the energy” for Fajr, because even at 4 in the morning, the minute someone plugs in the PS3 or suggests a movie marathon, it’s as though we’ve consumed a dozen energy drinks and three shots of espresso. Narrations reveal that Fajr is the most beneficial of the daily prayers; however, Satan whispers otherwise.

Minding Our Language

I understand that the recommended daily Ziyarat Ashura recitation summons an amazing adrenaline rush upon cursing the tyrants; however, extending this “curse allowance” to regular use of profanities in everyday life is certainly uncalled for! These days most Muhammads and Hussains and Zainabs and Fatimas seem to be partaking in the who-can-swear-the-most competitions with the non-Muslims. If anyone feels as though this statement is grossly unfair, please find proof by visiting the local Islamic school during lunch time.

Refraining from Backbiting

To those individuals who feel compelled to commit Gheebat, justifying it as “a collective attempt to rectify faltering individuals” by informing each and every person of someone else’s shortcomings and not-so-ethical behavior, we quote the Holy Qur’an: “And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother?” (49:12) Either everyone these days is practicing cannibalism on their own free will, or we have run out of new and interesting meats to try. I’m not too sure about your brother’s, but mine’s flesh certainly does not seem too appetizing.

Paying Religious Dues

The only difference between shortchanging the IRS and shortchanging on Khums is that the former will land you in jail, whereas the latter will put you in hell. Ideally we would like to avoid both, but if we had to choose one, we would definitely take jail time over hell time. And we sincerely hope our fellow brothers and sisters have the same preference. One way to avoid hell time is to pay our religious dues on time and share our wealth with the poor. We assure you the benefits are countless. The most appealing (second only to earning Allah’s pleasure, of course) benefit of taking your wealth and giving it to the poor? You get to feel like Robin Hood!

Observing Proper Hijab

Although it’s usually the intelligence of beings possessing the Y chromosome which is questioned, sometimes we can’t help but think it’s the double X which has a few loose screws. Why exactly a Hijabi woman would intentionally falter when it comes to observing proper Hijab is beyond our understanding. If you’ve got the headscarf and “modest dress” going on, than we’re yet to fully comprehend the benefit of exposing those pink toenails and wrists for the sake of showing off our gladiator sandals and fake Gucci watches. Please book an appointment with X-Men character Dust for a few Hijab pointers. (The Niqab is optional.) For God’s sake, sisters, cover up everything that’s not for the world to see, and that means not just your hair!

Avoiding Inappropriate Movies and Television Programs

Either I’ve remained completely oblivious about the MPAA merging with the Islamic seminary in Qom, or Muslims are mistaking the bold large print of “Rated R for coarse language and nudity” with “This movie is suitable for viewing by Muslims.” My dear brother, we are aware that the Imam of Our Time (may Allah hasten his reappearance) is always present among us. Keep that in mind the next time you watch a movie with girls in bikinis in it. And sisters, being a girl doesn’t justify your obsession for those romance films which lead to those secret collages and shrines with topless pictures of Edward Cullen making out with Bella. Sorry to break this to you, brothers and sisters, but your husbands and wives will not look like those Photoshopped movie stars, so it’s best to stop drooling over them now.

Sporting a Beard

According to several traditions, a shaved face was commonly sported by the munafiqeen of Islam, such as Muawiya and Yazid. Today, however, it is a common sight to see the followers of the bearded nobles, Prophet Muhammad and his Progeny (peace be upon them), resembling the followers of the enemies of Islam. I’ve never seen South Korean soldiers dress up like the North Korean soldiers, so I’m not too sure what is going on with a growing number of brothers today. Instead of desperately chasing Fiqhi loopholes to justify shaving the beard, just ask yourself one question: WWAD? (What Would [Imam] Ali Do?)

Keeping Proper Friends

We all love to be the best friends possible, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of us not being the best Muslim friends possible! Many a times we find it hard to control that energetic spirit within which chants Amr Bil Maroof, and in an attempt to show our friends the Right Path, we decide to do whatever it takes to “fit in” and subsequently let our own faith slip. As a wise person once said, “A man is known by the friends he keeps.” Surely hanging with friends who have a tendency to engage in haram activities cannot help us do more halal and less haram. If anyone thinks otherwise, the Prophet of Allah responded to your objection already: “A good friend is one whose presence should always remind you of your Lord.”

Making Up Missed Prayers and Fasts

It’s great fun to fall sick in Ramadan, because while everyone else is fasting, you’re one of the lucky few who can eat! Victory! But for those of us who don’t like being in debt to our bank or credit cards, maybe it’s a wise idea to be debt-free in the eyes of Allah as well. Fasting on days other than in Ramadan does seem excruciating, but perhaps some of us should have thought about this before we decided to forego our Islamic duties for minor excuses. And if you’re among the lucky few who do not have any missed fasts, take account and find out if you have any prayers from the past (that were missed or performed incorrectly) that must be made up.

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