How do we progressively move from Islam 101, to 201, and maybe even 301? Start with submission:
كَلَّا لَا تُطِعْهُ وَاسْجُدْ وَاقْتَرِبْ
No indeed! Do not obey him, but prostrate and draw nearer to Allah.
After you make the intention to submit, start to draw closer through what is made obligatory on you, not just through what is optional. Then, know that what will give you assistance in this is good character:
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
And you Muhammad are of an enormous character.
From here, you must learn to deal with tension, learn to deal with those who disagree or conflict with you and begin to acquire the attributes of belief:
What is the mindset of the Prophet? How can we practice his Sunnah without really trying to get into his habit, his wont, his behavior? How can we cultivate his Sunnah into actions? We have to create the environment to doing good deeds, having a good state of mind. A good place to start is to look at the supplications/دعاء of the Prophet and why would he make such supplications?
عن عبد الله بن عمرو أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يكثر أن يدعوا اللهم إني أسئلك الصحة والعفة والأمانة وحسن الخلق والرضا بالقدر
“O’ Allah!, I ask you for health, sexual morality, integrity, good character and satisfaction with what you measure out.” – related by al-Nisa’i.
Why would a man who is married ask for sexual morality? There’s the idea in today’s culture that once you’re married, it’s “game over.” Or that once you’re married, you no longer have to worry about that issue.
“The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, ‘The best of you, are my contemporaries, then those who follow them, then those who will come after them. (‘Imran said, I do not know if he said this twice or thrice). Then, they will be followed by those who will testify but will not be called upon to testify; they will betray the trust, and will not be trusted. They will make vows but will not fulfill them, and obesity will prevail among them‘.” al-Tirmidhi, Ahmad, and Ibn Hibban amongst others.
It can be no coincidence that some 1400 years ago the Prophet saw a connection between obesity and bad behavior. And while this should not infer that a skinny person is automatically more pious, it does address the problem when it (the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم was addressing a group of people: ويظهر فيهم السمن) becomes a social issue, not simply the misgivings of a few individuals. How often do we hear today of so many behavior issues amongst children, indeed even adults, and we see that obesity is rampant. Yet seldom is this the Islam that is presented to the public.
وَأَحْسِن كَمَآ أَحْسَنَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ
“And do good as God has done good unto you!” Qur’an, 28: 77.
What may be the biggest inhibitor is the lack of humility amongst the Muslims ourselves; there can be no achievement of the Sunnah without modesty, humility. Ibn ‘Ata Allah wrote:
لا يدخل عليك الإهمال إلا باهمالك عن متابعة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم, ولا تحصل لك الرفعة عند الله تعالى إلا بمتابعة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم
“Neglect will find no way to you except through your own negligence in following the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. And you will not be elevated in the sight of God except by following the example of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم.” Ibn ‘Ata’ Allah, The Bride-Groom’s Crown/Taj al-Arus al-Hawi li Tahdhib al-Nufus.
حدثنا أبو مسعود عقبة قال: قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إن مما أدرك الناس من كلام النبوة إذا لم تستحي فاصنع ما شئت
Additionally, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said concerning humility:
“Abu Mas’ud ‘Uqbah said that the Prophet [s] related that from what came to the people from the Prophets before is that if you have no humility then do as you please.”
Not only is this a condemnation, it is also an explanation and when the Prophet is explaining something to us, it’s for our benefit. People find no use for religion but from this statement, we can see that so much of what Allah has been trying to give people is to be humble, to be chaste, to be healthy, to be people who are trustworthy and are satisfied with what Allah measures out for them.
الإيمن بضع وستون أو سبعون شعبةً أفضلها لا إله إلا الله وأدناها إماطة الأذى عن الطريق والحياء شعبة من الإيمن
“Faith is comprised of some sixty or seventy branches, the best of which is the testimony of ‘there is no deity but the one true God’ while the lowest form of this faith is removing something harmful from the path; Humility is a branch of faith.” Sunan Abu Dawud.
Perhaps if Jeffrey Johnson had had more humility, had had more faith, had known that his need, his du’ah would be answered, that God would provide for him, then perhaps no one would have to have been shot or killed.
يستجاب لأحدكم مالم يعجل, يقول: دعوت فلم يستجب لي
“The supplication of each and every one of you will be responded to so long as you are not hasty, saying ‘I called upon you but I was not answered’.”