You will now ask: How can we become Muslims in the true sense of the word? This question I shall answer in considerable detail in my forthcoming addresses; but today I want to look at a point of fundamental importance, without which we cannot hope to discover true faith. This, you must understand, is the first essential step on your road to becoming a true Muslim.
Is Islam a Birthright?
But, first, think for a while: What does the word ‘Muslim’, which we all use so often, really mean? Can a person a Muslim simply because he is the son or grandson of a Muslim? Is a Muslim born a Muslim just as a Hindu Brahman’s son is a Brahman, or an Englishman’s son is born an Englishman, or a white man’s son is born a white man, or a Negro’s son is born a Negro? Are ‘Muslims’ a race, a nationality or a caste? Do Muslims belong to the Muslim Ummah like Aryans belong to the Aryan race? And, just as a Japanese is a Japanese because he is born in Japan, is a Muslim similarly a
Muslim by being born in a Muslim country?
Your answer to these questions will surely be: No. A Muslim does not become truly a Muslim simply because he is born a Muslim. A Muslim is not a Muslim because he belongs to any particular race; he is a Muslim because he follows Islam. If he renounces Islam, he ceases to be a Muslim. Any person, whether a Brahman or a Rajput, an Englishman or a Japanese, a white or a black, will, on accepting Islam, become a full member of the Muslim community; while a person born in a Muslim home may be expelled from the Muslim community if he gives up following Islam, even though he may be a descendant of the prophet, an Arab or Pathan.
Such will surely be your answer to my question. This establishes that the greatest gift of Allah which you enjoy-that of being a Muslim-is not something automatically inherited from your parents, which remains yours for life by right irrespective of your attitudes and behaviour. It is a gift which you must continually strive to deserve if you want to retain it; if you are indifferent to it, it may be taken away from you, God forbid.
Fundamentals of Islam Part I: Iman By Maulana Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi