I am Muslim because it is a way of life for me. True, inherent in the word “Muslim” is the idea that one follows the religion of Islam, but it is so much more that. How I see myself, the world, and other people is all filtered through a “Muslim lens.” I am also Muslim because of the way that my parents raised me and it is all I have ever known. Being Muslim is in my heart, soul, and spirit, which helps to guide me every step of the way on this journey called life. In this brief paper I will describe the Islam and what role it play in being Muslim, as well as some of the more general aspects that I consider to be more universal.

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I am Muslim because I believe that Allah is the One true God: Allah is Almighty, Allah is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, and Allah is Eternal. I believe in angels and prophets, but Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the last prophet and the Messenger of Allah. I believe that the Quran is the eternal and literal word of God-it is the purest word of God. I believe in the Last Judgment and a life hereafter, where God will send everyone either to heaven (paradise) or hell. These are the basic five doctrines of Islam that I was taught as a child, which I see as the basic “religious” aspects of being Muslim. It is of note that I did not mention the last (but sometimes controversial) doctrine, which is the idea of free will. Some Muslims strictly believe that everything is predetermined by God (hence the term inshallah, meaning “if God wills), while others are not as strict in how they view their future. I, for example, consider myself to be somewhere in the middle: I believe that God predetermines history and places people into a particular place and time (in order to fulfill his will), but I do not think he “micro-manages” every single person. In other words, we all have a certain general purpose, but we can change that course to some degree by our actions.

Another important aspect of why I am Muslim is that I follow the Five Pillars of Islam. In short, they are as follows: 1) The testimony of faith (There is no other God than Allah and Mohammed is his Messenger); 2) Prayer five times a day; 3) Almsgiving, which is a percentage of your income; 4) Fasting during Ramadan; and 5) Pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj), which (if possible) should be performed at least once in lifetime. These are less strict and people are forgiven as long as the reasons are justifiable (e.g., traveling a long period of time with a large time zone change would forgive someone from not eating during Ramadan).

Most importantly, I am Muslim because I try to live free of sin and adhere to my morals (e.g., don’t lie, steal, or cheat), help others, live in peace and promote nonviolence, and have compassion and respect for everyone (e.g., irrespective of religion, race, sexual orientation, etc.). I believe that these are actually values that all religions share, but since I follow Islam, it is what I believe makes me Muslim. For example, I enjoy helping others for the pure joy of making someone feel better, and it is something I keep only between myself and God (versus for recognition or any other external reward). I strive to better myself, each and everyday, learning from past mistakes and asking God for forgiveness. I try to live a calm and peaceful life, where I do no harm, but where I am also treated with respect. This is why I am Muslim.