Whenever we see our reflection in a mirror what do we see? According to Allah, we should see a reflection of the Prophet (peace be upon him). But do we? The Qur’an says: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah, you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much” (Al-Ahzab, 33:21).

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is supposed to be our role model, our mirror image – that which we are striving to be and the human criteria for us to judge ourselves by. In reality, however, how many of us actually see this beautiful person when we gaze into our mirrors?

Let’s face it. The problem in the Muslim world today is the Muslims. Right now, the “enemies of Islam” are the people we see in the mirror. When we look in the mirror, we don’t see the Prophet (peace be upon him) – rather, what we see are the enemies of Islam.

Let’s go back to basics for a second because that’s really where the problem lies. How many Muslims in the world pray five times a day? And of those who do, how many pray in the congregation? What about Fajr prayers and `Isha?

Of those, how many pray with sincerity and concentration – in full awe of Allah’s greatness? How many perform ablution correctly? When you consider all of these together, the figure is probably less than one percent of all Muslims, and this is only one aspect of the basics of Islam.

Yet, despite this depressing reality about our Ummah, certain members of our community are quick to call for jihad, label non-Muslims as the “enemies of Islam,” or call other Muslims who may not follow their school of thought “kafir” (unbeliever). But what are we doing? Each and every one of us? And what about our families? And then, what about our communities?

As Ummah, we have strayed so far; yet, we still expect Allah to help us (which He often does in His infinite mercy despite the fact that we are not living up to our end of the contract). And we wonder why Allah allows our enemies victory over us.

When will we realize that Islam is not a religion of convenience? When will we stop acting like the Christians who believe that just because they are Christian, they are saved and forgiven and that Allah will help them just because they call themselves Christian? Islam is not a privilege – it is a responsibility.

When will we truly heed Allah’s word in the Qur’an when He says that He will not help a people until they help themselves? Why did the Prophet (peace be upon him), the Companions and scholars of Islam literally spend their entire lives and sacrificed so much to preach and demonstrate to us the correct way to live, and to provide us with all the knowledge and guidance we could ever need? So that we can disregard it – yet still claim to be the greatest Ummah ever and still expect Allah’s mercy and help?

In the Battle of Uhud during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), it was apparent that the Muslims – despite being outnumbered by the Quraysh – was going to enjoy an easy victory. However, at the point of triumph, the unit of archers that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had entrusted with the task of rear-guarding the Muslim army fled their positions, as they wanted to take part in collecting the war booty that they saw their brethren starting to collect. They felt that the battle was over, despite strict orders from the Prophet not to leave their posts until he gave the word – “even if you see us being killed, left right and center.”

Despite their disobedience at Uhud, these men were of the highest caliber, bravery, and iman, being Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). If Allah granted them defeat because of one act of disobedience, how is it that we can expect success in our endeavors despite our failure to obey Allah in even the most basic aspects of Islam?

The answer to our problems is simple – forget all the complications. The answer was given to us 1,400 years ago, and it is still the same as it has always been. Practice Islam. Just two words – practice Islam.

Don’t follow our desires, our lusts, greed, or emotions just practice Islam. This doesn’t require a new movement, a new sect, a new organization, a lot of arguments over minutiae, or fancy jargon. It just requires humility and effort. Our individual and collective will is in line with Allah’s Will. That’s it.

Start praying – five times a day, each time as if it is our last prayer. Start paying zakat and acting charitably, just like the Prophet (peace be upon him). Start fasting, with the consciousness of Allah. Start raising and teaching our children to be good Muslims, and to fear and love Allah more than anything else – regardless of what society might say.

Start reading and striving to understand the Qur’an. Start seeking knowledge. Start being kind and respectful to our wives, and following Prophet’s (peace be upon him) guidance as to how to treat one another. Start treating non-Muslims not as enemies, but as potential Muslims.

Start putting our egos aside and listening, asking questions, reading, and taking an interest in our education, and, ultimately, our fate. Start treating our neighbors in the way of the Prophet (peace be upon him), with kindness and respect. Start correcting our brothers and sisters when they are wrong in the best way, a way that will create change and not sew hatred. All in all, start practicing Islam.

Now, if all of us, or at least a good percentage of us, began to take these steps toward Allah – looking inwardly at ourselves and outwardly at those for whom we are responsible – what can we expect that Allah’s response would be? Just as the Hadith says, if we walk toward Allah, He will come running toward us. Many of us have experienced this individually, but what would happen if Muslims acted in such a way on a collective basis? One can only imagine, given an Ummah of over one billion followers. Details aside, we can be sure that some amazing things would happen – within ourselves, our communities, and throughout the entire world.

All of the horrible, un-Islamic, inhumane things happening in the world today are caused by illnesses of the heart. Although many of these things are not caused by Muslims, many unfortunately are. Regardless of who is to blame, the illnesses remain the same. Hearts are diseased, and disease likes company so people suffering from the same illnesses often act together in their attempts to bring down as many others as they can with them. The only solution, the only remedy is practicing Islam – not simply “being Muslim”.

“The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail. Except him who brings to Allah a clean heart (clean from shirk, polytheism and nafaq).” (Ash-Shu’ara’, 26:88-89).

As Muslims, we need to stop talking about what is due to us and start thinking about what is due to us, and what and who we are responsible for.

We are responsible to Allah, first, for ourselves, and second, for the world. Thus, we cannot help the world figure out its mess until we clean up our own house, starting with each and every individual Muslim. We must begin the work of returning to Islam through practice. This is the only hope for us and, in effect, for the rest of Creation.