Question: I am a new Muslim. I have just started to practice my Islam. I wish you would give me some guidance how this practicing would make me a better person. Thank you for your time.

Answer: What is really interesting in your question is that it indicates that you have realized the essence of rituals. They are not ends in themselves, but they are means to make the person a better one. Some people think that if one succeeds in observing salat (prayer), sawm (fasting), zakat (payment of a certain portion of one’s wealth to the poor) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah), then that person is a perfect Muslim.

This indeed is not the case. If observing rituals does not help us to be humble, virtuous and truly God-fearing, then we are not real Muslims. The qualities a Muslim should develop in him/herself are mentioned in the Quran and hadith repetitively. In Surah 23, verses 1 to 11, God says what means:

{Those who humble themselves in their prayers; who avoid vain talk; who are active in deeds of charity, who abstain from sex except with those joined to them in marriage or [the captives] whom their right hands possess, for [in their case] they are free from blame. But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors. Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants; who [strictly] guard their prayers: these will be the heirs who will inherit Paradise, to dwell therein.}

As for hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

"None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself."

He also said:

"By Allah! He does not believe. By Allah! He does not believe. By Allah! He does not believe."

He was asked:

"Who, O Messenger of Allah?"

Then he said:

"Whoever who does not safeguard his neighbor from his harms."

We can thus summarize the teachings of Islam about the Muslim character succinctly in the following:

Be truthful; don’t be dishonest.
Be humble; don’t be arrogant.
Be moderate; don’t be excessive.
Be clean; don’t be corrupt.
Be reserved; don’t be garrulous.
Don’t be boastful; be soft-spoken.
Don’t be unmindful of others; be loving and solicitous to them.
Don’t be harsh; be considerate and compassionate.
Don’t be insulting and disrespectful to people; be polite and helpful.
Don’t be selfish and miserly; be generous and charitable.
Don’t swear, don’t curse; be refined and gentle in speech.
Don’t be bitter and resentful; be cheerful and magnanimous.
Don’t be greedy; be content, be grateful for what one has.
Don’t be irritable and morose; be cheerful and pleasant.
Don’t be lustful; be chaste and pure.
Don’t be absent-minded; be alert.
Don’t be graceless; be dignified and decent.
Don’t be hypocritical; be sincere and straightforward.
Don’t be cynical or pessimistic; be optimistic and hopeful.
Don’t be doubtful and wavering; be confident and deep in faith.
Don’t be materialistic; be spiritually oriented.
Don’t lose heart or be desperate; always have faith in Allah’s mercy.
Don’t be negligent to your duties; be diligent and vigilant.
Don’t be forgetful of the innumerable blessings of God; be thankful to Him and constantly pray to Him.

I hope this would help you and every other Muslim to become the better person we all want to be.