Hello, Drakkeon! Thank you for sending your question to Ask About Islam.
To start with: this is not a stupid question at all!
If someone is actively working to inform himself about the religion of 1.8 billion people in the world, this is something we commend him for!
To answer your question: no, someone is not automatically considered Muslim just because they are learning about Islam.
If someone chooses to find out what the five pillars of Islam are, for example—or even listens to Quran recitation or reads the words to the call to prayer—this does not make him Muslim; this makes him a learner, and a human being.
It is a mark of intelligence and curiosity to pursue knowledge about any and all things within one’s grasp.
The key point here is: to know and understand something about another religion is not the same as believing it.
Non-Muslim Support and Defense
For example, my sister is an agnostic. She is not convinced of the existence of God at all, let alone if he deserves worship or not.
But, from the first moment she learned I had embraced Islam, she has been my strongest supporter. She defends me, she defends other Muslims, and she even defends Islam as a religion.
Now, how could she do this unless she herself was convinced that Islam and Muslims are not evil like the media and politicians often say? By learning what Islam is really about.
The most wonderful thing you could do to protect the rights of Muslims in your area would be to learn about what they truly believe. By doing this, you would be able to defend them and their rights when someone speaks badly about them in your presence.
What Makes Someone Muslim?
You have actually touched on what technically makes someone Muslim right in your question: the five pillars of practice and the six parts of faith.
If someone does not believe in even one of these six things, he is not Muslim by definition.
If someone is not practicing, or trying to practice, even one of these five pillars, he is not Muslim, by definition.
The Five Pillars
This is the core belief of Islam. Thus, even if someone behaves like a Muslim and believes all the other tenets of Islam, but not this one, he is not Muslim. Period. Full-stop.
Prayer, five times a day
If a person claims to be Muslim but does not actively try to pray all five prayers, every day, he is not Muslim. This comes from the saying of our Prophet Muhammad:
“Verily, between a man and idolatry and unbelief is abandoning the prayer.” (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 82)
Much like how a Christian is required to give tithe every paycheck, a Muslim is required to pay a percentage of his total wealth each year directly to the poor.
Should he choose not to pay this percentage without a valid excuse, he is not following the tenets of Islam.
This month, called Ramadan, just finished, actually, and Muslims all over the world—except the ill, elderly, children, and sometimes pregnant and nursing women—refused to drink anything or eat anything (including water) from dawn til sunset.
Therefore, in some places, this was as much as 18 hours. If someone refuses to fast without a valid excuse, he is committing one of the most serious sins in Islam.
Making the Hajj Pilgrimage once in a lifetime, if financially able
This is one of the hardest pillars to complete, and some of us will never be able to. However. if a Muslim has the money and is able in other ways to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the heart of Islam, but chooses not to, he is committing a grave sin.
Moreover, a Muslim is someone who believes in six specific things: the six parts of belief. These include belief in the angels, in the Holy Books, in destiny, in the prophets of God, and in the day of judgment.
God Knows the Contents of the Heart
Most noteworthy here is the fact belief and actions go hand-in-hand. Therefore, someone could observe all the rituals and rules I have just mentioned, but if they do not have a belief in their heart that God is God, they are not Muslim.
One cannot fool God by acting one way and believing in something else.
Consequently, if someone is not interested in actually converting to Islam but still wants to understand what Islam actually teaches, he is not changing the beliefs of his heart. He is not changing his religion; He is just changing the ideas in his mind about other religions.
If he was scared of Islam and Muslims before, reading about what we actually believe would relieve him of that fear!
In addition, if he was nervous about Muslims wanting to convert him, for example, he would only have to actually speak with a Muslim to learn the fallacy in this idea.
I hope this has answered your question, and I encourage you to learn as much as possible about all religions and all walks of life because peace and tolerance come from a sense of shared humanity!
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