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The Meaning of Islam

What the word “Islam” itself means?

The religion of Islam is not named after a person nor was it named after a tribe. Islam is the religion of “God” (Ar. Allah) and as such, its name represents the central principle of God’s religion; the total submission to the will of God. The Arabic word “Islam” means the submission or surrender of one’s will to the only true God worthy of worship and anyone who does so is termed a “Muslim”, The word also implies “peace” which is the natural consequence of total submission to the will of God. Hence, Islam was not a new religion brought by Prophet Muhammad in Arabia in the seventh century, but only the true religion of God re-expressed in its final form.

Islam is the religion which was given to Adam, the first man and the first prophet of God, and it was the religion of all the prophets sent by God to mankind.

It is clear to anyone who reads the Qur’an that this Book focuses entirely on the oneness of God. It does not depict the life of Prophet Muhammed or his heroism like most people tend to believe. Any person who reads the Qur’an will clearly see that its aim is to promote belief that God is one, alone, glorifying Him, following His commands, and abstaining from what He has forbidden. Islam is the religion which was given to all the prophets sent by God to mankind. The name of God’s religion Islam was not decided upon by later generations of man. It was chosen by God Himself and clearly mentioned in the Qur’an. God states the following:

“The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah–that which We have sent by inspiration to thee–and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: namely, that ye should remain steadfast in Religion, and make no divisions therein…” (Qur’an 42:13).

If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to God) never will It be accepted of Him” (Quran 3:85)

Indeed, the religion in the sight of God is Islam. (submission to His Will): …” (Quran 3:19)

When we study the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an we will see that the essence of our religion is the submission and the surrender of one’s will to the only true God worth of worship.

“Lo! religion with Allah (is) the Surrender (to His Will and Guidance). Those who (formerly) received the Scripture differed only after knowledge came unto them, through transgression among themselves…” (Qur’an 3:19).

The “People of the Book”, the Jews and the Christians, “differed” among themselves not because the Revelations that they had received were different but because they were not following the righteous path. Despite the fact that they received that knowledge of that Religion through that one “Book” as revealed in various times, they disputed and lived in conflict.

Islam: the submission or surrender of one’s will to the only true God

Many Christians believe that the Qur’an is not from the same God of the Bible and they believe that Islam is a different religion from Christianity. Islam is the religion of God and as such, its name represents the central principle of God’s religion; the total submission to the will of God. The Arabic word “Islam” means the submission or surrender of one’s will to the only true God worthy of worship and anyone who does so is termed a “Muslim”. Islam is the only true religion of God which He established for us and it’s the same religion which is gave Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

Islam, in fact, is an attributive title. Anyone who possesses this attribute, whatever race, community, country or group he belongs to, is a Muslim. According to the Qur’an, among every people and in all ages there have been good and righteous people who possessed this attribute – and all of them were and are Muslims.

The word Islam is derived from the Arabic root “S-L-M” which means, among other things, peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense the word Islam means submission to the Will of God and obedience to His Law. The connection between the original and the religious meanings of the word is strong and obvious. Only through submission to the Will of God and by obedience to His Law can one achieve true peace and enjoy lasting purity.

The word “Islam” as used in the Qur’an, does not point to a creed that was meant to be parallel to, or competitive with other existing creeds. “Islam”, in its original sense pointed to the eternal call from God to man to surrender to His will. Namely, “Islam” is a synonym for the One Religion that all prophets carried to humanity. This is partly how we can see “Islam” as al-Deen al Hanif: the pure, Primordial Religion”. Tasleem “surrender -submission “, salam “peace” and salamah “salvation” are interrelated.  In order to obtain peace, happiness and salvation, one must reconcile with God. The misfortunes in a person’s life originate from his enmity towards God. Sin, which comes from Satan, brings forth enmity against God. Therefore, to have peace with God, one must first be free from sin. “Submit to God and be at peace with Him; in this way prosperity will come to you” (Job 22:21).

The core concept is that man needs to be in harmony with God. How can we be in harmony with God? We find the answer to this question in the Bible: “Here is the patience of the saints. Here are the ones who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12).  The faith of Jesus Christ will bring us into harmony with God. Accepting Jesus’ vision of life, what it can be and how we should live it, aligns our will with God’s will. As a result of this harmony, we work for the same goal that God works for.

What’s the work, we might ask. What God is doing, is the answer. Jesus taught that God is saving the world. And that’s what we’re given faith for: to save the world: to help pull it out of its very real pain and loneliness. Once s/he surrenders to God, s/he will be in peace within her/himself and with everything in the universe. Accordingly, the word Muslim in the Qur’an points to persons who seek full surrender to God by adhering to a righteous path.

I read a Protestant lady editor says: “A thread is woven through religious history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” If one was to read all the three scriptures, one would immediately notice a continuity of the divine revelations. We read in the Qur’an: “And hold fast, all together, by the rope which God (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; …” (Qur’an 3:103). The Creator has indeed woven a heavenly thread linking these three Books of Instructions. The bridges can be built between the ‘People of the Books’ if every son and daughter of Abraham reads the books of the other family members and respects their prophets.

Today, more than ever before, we find the need for an understanding between these three Children of Abraham. I believe it can be achieved by reading the Bible and understanding the messages of the biblical prophets from a new perspective, a perspective whose outlook is panoramic and vast enough to sweep all three religions. “Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all children born of the same father and reared in the bosom of Abraham,” writes professor F. E. Peters. (Children of Abraham (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982)

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