There are many demands on us as Muslims. We have a lot of work to do but unfortunately there are not enough of us living up to the responsibilities Muslims face in this day and age.

First, we have a vital need to learn and understand Islam so that we may practice it in the way that pleases Allah most. We do this so that we may lead peaceful and successful lives here on earth and, in sha Allah are granted Allah’s mercy in the next life in Paradise.

Once we have a solid footing in understanding and practicing our faith, we must then invite others to Islam in the most proper and effective ways we can. This alone is a tremendous undertaking considering that there is such widespread ignorance of Islam in the world today. Defending Islam against those who seek to curb its growth and against those who abuse Muslims is also a major concern for all of us who are sincere in our desire to create strong bonds of brotherhood among Prophet Muhammad’s followers (peace be upon him). We need to advance the condition of Muslims in the world today and restore the authority of Allah and His commands for the benefit of all mankind.

Of course, none of us can accomplish these things on our own. Nor can we do all of these things at once, as much as we’d like to. Setting priorities and establishing balance in our lives is most important. Priorities start with the fard, or obligatory acts of worship (`ibadat) and deeds (mu`amalat). This means that we have responsibilities towards Allah first, the One Who created us and provides us with everything we need in this life. We need to obey Him because we trust that He will only command us what benefits us and only forbids us to do those things which cause us harm.

The importance of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is that he provides guidance and interpretation of Allah’s commands. The Qur’an provides guidance for all of mankind but cannot give us information regarding all of the details we come across in our daily lives. We will never match Prophet Muhammad’s piety and wisdom, but we are not expected to. Prophet Muhammad has encouraged us to hold fast to the Qur’an and then to follow his ways to the best of our ability.

We need to build our own faith and understanding of Islam, and then work on our surroundings. As I mentioned above, we cannot do everything all at once. Our bodies have rights over us. Getting enough nutrition, sleep, and exercise are very important, but we do not spend all of our time in these things. Our families and friends have rights over us, but we do not spend all of our time and efforts trying to please them alone. Our society has rights over us, but we do not devote ourselves to serving it at the expense of neglecting ourselves and loved ones. It is better to pick a cause to strive for and become excellent in it, rather than to spread yourself too thin working for many causes at once and therefore failing to give each one the attention and effort it deserves.

To summarize, basically the priorities we need to set as Muslims should be as follows:

1. Allah: following His commands and worshiping Him
2. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): implementing his Sunnah (traditions & habits) as much as possible
3. Parents: obeying and being kind to them
4. Spouses and children: cherishing and protecting them
5. Extended family: honoring and being kind to them
6. Fellow Muslims and friends: loving them and encouraging them to do what is right
7. Society: working to improve its condition and guiding it towards Allah.

This does not mean that we cannot focus on more than one thing at a time, only that we should never exert too much effort on things lower down on the list at the expense of those things higher up on the list.

*by Waleed Ahmed Najmeddine