Human beings, on the other hand, often tend to do the opposite. They take what is better and all too often make it worse. Look at what they did with slavery. And with all the animal species that have become extinct or are on the verge of becoming so. And look at what they have done with our land, air and water.
In other words, the best way - and in fact the right way and the only way - to truly and properly thank God Almighty is to do what he created you in the first place to do. And that is to make a concerted and focused effort to reunite an alienated and estranged creation with the creator. To let God's will be done right here on earth as it is done in heaven, as a well-known Christian prayer puts it.
The purpose of your creation, the Qur'an tells you, was so you will serve him; invite everyone else to serve him; and manage and run the affairs of his earth according to his commands and instructions for the benefit of all of his creation. That is why he made you in the first place. Hear the Qur'an say it: Wa maa khalaqtul jinna wal insa illaa li-ya'budoon. Paraphrase: I created you for no other reason than to serve me.
That is right. That is where it all begins - and ends. The all-out and relentless effort, both organized and individual, to bring every one of God's lost sheep back to the fold of God's love, mercy and service. Everything else is filler in the middle.
He gives you a family, because you would need one in your work. He gives you a home, because you need shelter - a place to live - when you work for him. He gives you a career and a job and a business, because you need all those things to be able to do your work for God Almighty better and properly.
What is more, he is so kind and generous that he makes your pursuit of all these things - your career, your family, your home, your entertainment and leisure activities, your every worldly human need - count toward your service for him. He does that when you decide to put him first, acknowledge him as your true and only master and decide and dedicate yourself to work for him.
Clear Focus vs. Random Acts of
Virtue and Goodness
That is what it means to have focus. And to have Islam.
And being a Muslim means having the right focus - having a clear and sharp focus on life and its responsibilities and on your own role in Allah's world. Islam is not random acts of goodness, virtue and piety, even though Allah does not allow even an iota of good to go unnoticed or unrewarded.
Islam, therefore, is not a little bit of namaaz here and a little bit of hajj there with a lot of free and idle time in between, even though namaaz and hajj and fasting and zakaat will forever remain the pillars on which Islam is built. But who ever told you that the pillars, no matter how strong and big and ornate, are all of the structure?
Pillars are a part of the building, not all of it. The only place where you see huge columns standing all by themselves are ancient ruins - a state of dilapidation to which most Muslims have returned Islam in recent times. I mean many of the good, "observant" Muslims, not the bad ones. Because they have held on to the pillars and abandoned the whole superstructure that the pillars are put there to support.
Being Uncomfortable with God's Terminology
If God's choice of words and expressions - like when he refers to us as his slaves - makes us unhappy or uncomfortable or embarrassed, then we have a serious problem. What it is telling us is that we are forgetting who our real master is, God or other people like us. And when we put pleasing people above pleasing God, we are in for a lot of trouble.
How clearly Allah tells the people-pleasers among us - those who seek to please our fellow-humans even when it may involve displeasing God, our master: A-yabtaghoona 'indahumul 'izzah? Fa-innal 'izzata lillahi jamee'aa. Paraphrase: Do they seek honor, dignity, recognition and power and position from people? Surely, Allah is the one where all honor, power, position and dignity reside.
Against this background, a Muslim is simply a person who acknowledges his true master, God Almighty; comes to terms with his true identity as God Almighty's slave on earth; realizes his role as being one of serving God's other slaves on earth and inviting them back to their master; and thus throws open the gates of peace, blessing, joy, comfort and wellbeing - for himself and for all the creation of Allah.
That is who a Muslim is and that is what a Muslim does or must do. What a glorious way to live!
An Average Muslim's Trademark
And all this wealth of meaning and goodness is packed in those two wonder words Assalamu Alaikum - an average Muslim's trademark everywhere - that in effect mean: May Almighty Allah shower upon you all the most wonderful blessings of this world and the next world and may he fill your life with all the miraculous wonders of earthly and heavenly existence.
Can't you see that these words - Assalamu Alaikum - are there for a reason? And Allah makes Muslims spill them all over the world for a reason? And can't you see that at least a part of that reason has to do with your own well-being? For, on the one hand, not an iota of goodness do these two words leave out without channeling it in your direction. Nor do they, on the other hand, leave out an iota of evil that they do not ward off and turn away from you.