When I started this series, I hadn't really thought that this topic would need any discussion, but some recent comments over at Racialicious made me think that a blog post is in order. Apparently, some people feel that just by declaring yourself to be a Muslim that you are one. This is not the case.
Being a Muslim means meeting minimum requirements. As Abu Sinan pointed out in the comments, to be a Muslim the absolute minimum requirement is to recite the shahadah publicly with the intention (niyyat) of submitting your will to Allah (swt) (see the hadith of Usaamah here). That's the absolute minimum. Then, as Aaminah also pointed out in her recent post, to be a Muslim requires an acceptance of the five pillars of Islam and a belief in the six articles of faith. Reject any of those and you're not a Muslim, insha'allah. This is the problem for the Ahmadiyya, the Submitters, the NOI, the Five Percenters, and perhaps a few other groups. They have all stepped outside the boundaries of Islam. (As for people like the clowns at "Muslims Against Sharia," only the completely gullible would think they're Muslim in any way, shape or form.)
There aren't any "cultural Muslims." The term "cultural Muslim," like "secular Muslim," is a contradiction. You're either in a state of Islam (a Muslim) or you're not. You may come from a Muslim culture, but if you're not in a state of Islam that doesn't make you a "cultural Muslim." That just makes you a non-Muslim, like all the others. A Muslim is a person who's in a state of Islam, nothing less.
Islam isn't a cafeteria religion. Muslims don't pick and choose which parts of Islam they're willing to follow. We're not like the adherants of other religions who play that sort of game. If you're a Muslim, then you believe in all of the Qur'an - "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord" (3:7). Moreover, a Muslim does not reject the ahadith, recognizing that in this time the way Muslims obey the Messenger (pbuh) (3:32, 3:132, 4:13, 4:59, etc.) is through the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh), which is made up primarily of the sahih ahadith collections. Don't like it? Then maybe you're not ready to be a Muslim yet.
To be continued, insha'allah.