Salam Dear Graeme,
Thank you very much for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
You may be right in saying that you are better than many so-called Muslims, though you do not call yourself a Muslim.
But it is inconceivable how you can “submit to God 100%”, and still be doubtful about being a Muslim!
Islam Contains The Full, Balanced Truth
As Islam is the final and the complete religion of God, it certainly has all the answers you expect a religion to give.
Other religions may be just about the spiritual life of Man; they teach how you can save your soul from the imperfections of the body.
But Islam is as much about the body as the soul.
Most other religions are other-world-oriented, while Islam is both this-world-oriented and other-world-oriented.
Some other religions concentrate on the individual, while Islam underscores the importance of the society as well as of the individual.
We may say that Islam’s domain is the total human life in this world and the next.
It is this comprehensive nature of Islam which prompted a Western critic to call it “a totalitarian religion”, which, incidentally, about sums up the reason why it is often at the center of controversy.
“Inner Jihad” or Tazkiyyah
You are enamored of the idea of inner jihad, which is central to Islam. You have “made your heart a mosque, where you submit to God.”
But I understand that you ignore the submission to God in your outward life. I mean, you do not literally bow or prostrate before God with your body.
In Islam, the external act of bowing is irrelevant when there is no internal act of bowing; and equally important, the external act of bowing is the natural outcome of the internal act of bowing.
A Muslim bows five times a day before God, and if we ignore to do this, the chances are that we ignore to bow internally too. As long as we are living in this world, our body and soul are one; they are not separate.
When our hand commits a sin, our soul, too, shares in it. So it is not enough that our soul surrenders internally; our body also must surrender outwardly.
Unless the body is in harmony with the soul in worship, a person becomes a sort of a split personality. Islam visualizes a whole person leading a single life in submission to the One God.
Similarly, Islam teaches that while we take care of our spiritual welfare, we must worry about the welfare of our neighbor, too.
For this reason, Islam visualizes a society where truth and social justice prevail. It is the duty of all the adherents of Islam to strive for the realization of such a society.
Sufism can be defined as the mystical or spiritual dimension of Islam.
However, there is a general perception that one can be a follower of Sufism without being a Muslim. It is evident that some certain forms of Sufism are really outside the pale of Islam.
The Sufis seek to find divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God, a kind of mystical experience.
Mysticism is usually understood to be the experience of a direct communion with the ultimate reality.
It is believed that the direct knowledge of the ultimate reality, or God, can be attained through a sort of subjective experience, somewhat akin to intuition.
Both the terms “Sufi” and “Sufism” have no basis in the traditional Islamic sources of the Quran and the Sunnah (the example of Prophet Muhammad—peace and blessings be upon him).
In the early stages of the Sufi movement, the remembrance of God and asceticism were its outstanding characteristics.
Sufism began with an emphasis on excessive `ibadah (forms of worship), but later it developed branches, accepting ideas from sources external to Islam that were so far removed from authentic religious doctrines and were expressions of exaggerated emotional states.
In conclusion, we may say that there is a Sufism that is well within the bounds of Islamic norms practiced by great souls of the past. We can certainly learn from them and try to emulate them.
At the same time, there are other forms of Sufism that Islam cannot approve of because they have deviated from the path of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
We must understand that any spiritual or mystical movement that takes its adherents away from the Qur’an and the Sunnah is outside the pale of Islam and deserves to be shunned at all costs.
And Allah knows best.
Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.
(Originally published in October 2016)