One of the most influential scholars of Islam al-Ghazali (1058-1111) states that half of the people run away from Islam because of misbehaviour of Muslims towards others.
Inculcation of good behaviour amongst humans was one of the reasons that the Prophet Mohammad (s) was sent as a blessing to humankind by our Creator. In a hadith, the Prophet (s) states that “I have only been sent to perfect good moral character” (Musnad).
According to al-Shatibi (1320-1388), Islam aims to build noble character amongst its followers. Today manu Muslims claim to practice their religion but focussing more on appearance than good behaviour.
A common fallacy in the Muslim world is to believe that change is manifested through appearance only, and that modernity means wearing a suit and tie, while piety means having a beard or wearing a turban.
Some Muslims take these appearances as a condition of piety. However, piety and righteousness are reflected in person behaviour not appearance and how a person is dealing with others according to the Quran (2:177).
One of the major issues for Muslims is how to present Islamic ethics in all aspects of life. This is called tamthil or role modelling.
In shahadah (testifying of faith), the first pillar of Isla, in the second sentence, the word of ‘abd’ or servant comes before the word of rasul or messenger. Abd means to practice as a servant and mentioning of the word of abd before rasul means representing or role modelling comes before the conveying of the message. Therefore it can be argued that the behaviour of a Muslim should proceed conveying of the message for Daawah purposes, just as lightening precedes thunder.
Research shows that 92% of Americans reverted to Islam because of coming in contact with a Muslim displaying good behaviour. Only 5% of those who those who reverted did so because of proselytisation.
Thus, the action of a good Muslim speaks louder than his/her words. Different surveys have shown that Americans who have not met practicing Muslims are not in favour of Islam. Muslims not displaying good character may be one of the reasons of Islamophobia in various societies.
The grandson of Hasan al-Banna and son of Saeed Ramadan Professor Tariq Ramadan (in his speech at ICV in 2009) argued that “without good behaviour, Islam becomes a sloganic faith only and this is a betrayal of the religion. When we look at the Muslim countries, it is very difficult to call them Islamic countries. These are countries simply where the majority of the population is Muslim.”
I was talking to a leading figure of the Muslim community in Australia a few months ago who had recently visited Turkey. Before I asked about how was his trip, he said that he saw ceremonial Islam being practiced there. This is not only in Turkey only but the whole Muslim world largely follows ceremonial Islam.
The practical solution to going beyond ceremonial Islam to is to truly understand the meaning of shahadah and applying it in daily life in through our good behaviour.
Ali Hajwairi (990-1077) sates that the shortest and safest way of achieving this is to have faith in Allah and worshiping Him and then is to serve all His creation in the best possible ways.