This is often the question that lingers in the minds of many. Islam is not like any other religion, it is unique in many aspects and that’s one of the reasons why people find it difficult to relate to it. One wouldn’t be able to distinguish a “practicing” Christian from a non-practicing one because basically both go to the same church; hold the same beliefs and Christianity being the lenient religion it is-as a result of alterations by different people at different points in history-every “believer” has the freedom to do anything they want to. So there really isn’t any distinguishing factor in Christianity. A believer is a believer; whether he’s a rapist or a priest; both are equal in terms of their status in the Christian faith because the actions of a person don’t matter once the person believes in a savior. Cool much? I think not, it’s far from that.
Now let’s get to the crux of the matter. Islam is completely opposed to this idea. Obviously even in Islam, a believer is better in status than a disbeliever how much ever “pious” then the latter may be. But Islam is not unreasonable like Christianity; there is justice in all its principles. Allah decreed certain guidelines and rules that every Muslim must comply with. In order to maintain peace and justice in the society we have set rules which are to be followed by everybody, there are no exceptions to it. It is not just the muftis or scholars who have to follow the religion. A person who claims to be a Muslim is expected to comply with its obligations. Harsh much? Not really, in fact not even close. These principles/rules are for the benefit of the community.
Like every other religion, in Islam too, there is the concept of an Afterlife. This belief in an afterlife is not alien; in fact it is the basis of any other religion–most of them for that matter. To give you a brief idea of how a Christian will be “saved” or rewarded, it is by their mere belief in a “savior”. In Islam, this isn’t the case. Belief comes first but that’s just not it, there are other aspects linked to belief in the heart.
To put it simply, Islam calls for belief in the heart, professing by the tongue and actions by the limbs. Why so complicated you might wonder. But it isn’t really. The objective of Shari’ah is human welfare and justice. We are commanded to do certain things due to the benefit in them and are commanded to avoid certain things due to the harm in them. This life is temporary and our real abode is in the hereafter. We can be successful in life only if we live by the rules set by Allah because we’re really being tested in every move we make. In obedience to Allah there is abundant blessing and great benefit. A society without any rules to guide people will definitely lead to chaos and conflict. To avoid the complexity of such situations every society or group fixes certain rules to govern its affairs. You might remember making a “club” or a group with your friends at school, setting some rules and putting some conditions? It’s so natural. Then why should one object to the laws of God? And label them as “harsh” or “unfair”? It doesn’t make any sense.
So being a Muslim doesn’t mean having a Muslim name or Muslim parents, rather it is personal. It is not only what is in your heart but also how much of it you show in your actions. And Allah did not leave us unguided but equipped us with the most complete and perfect guidance, the Qur’an. Life may seem tough if restricted by laws, but these laws are like no other, they’re divine and without a shadow of doubt, flawless, and it’s only wise to live by them.