What Do ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ Mean?
‘Islam’ is an Arabic word meaning ‘submission’, and more specifically ‘submission to the Will of Allah (Arabic for God)’. ‘Muslim’, a word derived from the same root, means ‘one who submits to the Will of Allah‘. Some Western writers have mistakenly used the words ‘Mohammedanism’ and ‘Mohammedan’ for ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’. This labeling is incorrect as it suggests that Muslims worship Muhammad – a concept opposed to the very foundation of Islam. ‘Mohammedanism’ also implies that Muhammad was the author or founder of Islam – a belief also opposed to it roots.
What Is Islam?
Islam is composed of two basic components: the ‘ Quran‘ and the ‘Sunnah’. The ‘ Quran‘ is the Book containing the exact Words of Allah as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad . The ‘Sunnah’ is the body of sayings, actions, approvals or disapprovals of the Prophet Muhammad . From these two main sources are derived the laws, beliefs and rituals of Islam.
Islam is not a new religion, but the same basic truth with which Allah sent all Prophets and Messengers. The first pillar of Islam is the testimony: “There is nothing worthy of worship besides Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” Indeed, all the Prophets, including Moses and Jesus, called their followers to a similar testimony – as exemplified in the first of the Ten Commandments.
Who Are The Muslims?
Over one billion people, one-fifth of the world’s population, from a vast range of races, nationalities and cultures are united by a common Islamic faith.
Dispelling the myth that Islam is a religion for the Arabs is that Arabs comprise only about 18% of the world’s Muslims. The world’s largest Muslim community is in Indonesia, and substantial parts of Asia and most of Africa’s population is Muslim. Additionally, significant Muslim populations are to be found in the Soviet Union, China, North and South America, and Europe.
What Do Muslims Believe?
Muslims believe that there is none but One God (Allah), Supreme and Eternal, Infinite and Mighty, Merciful and Compassionate, who created everything and provides all with sustenance.
Muslims believe in the Messengers of Allah. Allah raised a Messenger among every nation which called to his people saying: “Worship Allah, you have no other God besides Him.” They were selected by Allah to instruct mankind in conduct and to correct their beliefs. The Quran mentions twenty-five messengers by name. It declares Prophet Muhammad to be the final messenger and the seal of prophet hood.
Muslims believe in all the scriptures and revelations of Allah. They were the codified Guidance revealed to the Messengers – the Words of Allah. In the Quran, special reference is made to the Books of Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. However, these Books were edited, mixed with falsehoods or completely lost. The only authentic and complete book of Allah in existence today is the Quran.
Muslims believe in Angels. They are real beings, created by Allah from light. Muslims do not worship or deify them in any way. They are but slaves of Allah who spend their days and nights continuously obeying His commands and worshipping Him. Angels are mentioned repeatedly in both the Quran and in the sayings of Prophet Muhammad .
Muslims believe in the Day of Judgment. Allah warns of this day in the Quran. Before that Day, He will cause all beings to die. He will grasp the skies and the earth within His Hand. Then, Allah will cause all beings to be resurrected and gather them to be judged. Each will be recompensed, forgiven or punished for their deeds in this world. Those whom He will forgive will be allowed to enter Heaven. Others He will punish in Hell for a time and then allow them to enter Heaven. Those who died rejecting faith or worshipping others along with Allah will enter Hell and will never leave it.
Muslim believes in the timeless knowledge of Allah and in His power to plan and execute His Will. Nothing is possible without His decree. Every thing we do or happens in this life is decreed by Allah and written in His book. Among His attributes are Ultimate Wisdom and Mercy, and whatever He does has a meaningful purpose. If this is established in our minds and hearts, we should accept with good Faith all that He does, although we may not fully understand it.
What Are the Pillars of Islam?
Islam is built upon five pillars:
1. The Testimony: “That there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger”. This statement denies any and all object of worship besides the One True God and obligates the testifier to follow the example of Prophet Muhammad in matters of belief, performance of religious rites, and daily behavior.
2. Prayer: Muslims are obliged to perform five ritual prayers each day. These prayers serve to strengthen and invigorate the belief in Allah and compel the human to higher morality.
3. Fasting the month of Ramadan: During the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan, Muslims are obliged to abstain from all food, drink, and spousal relations. Also during this time, Muslims are to exert themselves in avoiding lying, backbiting and all other evil acts. Fasting teaches love, sincerity and devotion, and develops a more sound social conscience, patience, and self-denial.
4. Zakah: Muslims, whose wealth qualifies, are obliged to pay approximately two-and-one-half percent of their excess wealth to the poor.
5. Hajj: Once in a lifetime, given sufficient financial and physical ability, Muslims are to undertake the journey to the House of Allah in Mecca.
Islam and the Original Sin
Muslims believe that people are born free of sin. It is only after they reach the age of puberty, and commit sins that they are to be charged for their mistakes. No one is responsible for the sins of others, as Allah said in the Quran:
64. Say: “Shall I seek a lord other than Allah, while He is the Lord of all things? No person earns any (sin) except against himself (only), and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another. Then unto your Lord is your return, and He will tell you that wherein you have been differing.
Muslims believe that Adam and Eve has committed a sin by eating from the tree which Allah has commanded them not to come near, but we believe that Allah has forgiven both of them as the Quran narrates the story:
117. Then We said: “O Adam! Verily, this (Satan) is an enemy to you and your wife. So let him not get you both out of Paradise, so that you be distressed in misery.
118. Verily, you have (a promise from Us) that you will never be hungry therein or naked.
119. And you will not suffer from thirst therein nor from the sun’s heat.
120. Then Satan whispered to him, saying: “O Adam! Shall I lead you to the Tree of Eternity and to a kingdom that will never waste away?”
121. Then they both ate of the tree, and so their private parts appeared to them, and they began to stick on themselves the leaves from Paradise for their covering. Thus did Adam disobey his Lord, so he went astray.
122. Then his Lord chose him, and turned to him with forgiveness, and gave him guidance.
Its worth noting that the blame for committing the sin goes mainly to Adam, as the Quran mentions the story it refers to Adam not Eve all the time, on the contrary of what is written in the current Bible, which was edited by men who physically overpowered women and abused them for a sin they never did.
The Concept Of Worship In Islam
Islam places great emphasis on intention behind actions, as Prophet Muhammad said: “Every action is with its intention, and to everyone will be what they intended…” Therefore in Islam, the condition of the heart is of great importance. To worship Allah is to obey His Commands found in the Quran and to obey His Messenger with whom He sent guidance to humanity. Worshipping Him consists of this obedience out of love for Him and fear of His Punishment. The Quran explains this concept in the following manner:
177. It is not the righteousness that you turn your faces to the East or West, but righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Prophets; and gives his wealth for love of Him to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and sets slaves free; and observes proper worship and pays the Zakah. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress; such are those who are sincere. Such are the pious.
A Muslim scholar (Ibn Taimiyah) said: “Worship is an all inclusive term for all what Allah loves of external and internal sayings and actions of a person.”
163. He has no partner and I am ordered to be among those who submit.
31. They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords beside Allah, ….
Once, while Allah‘s Messenger was reciting the above verse, Adi bin Hatim said: “O’ Allah‘s Prophet! They do not worship them”, Allah‘s Messenger said: “They certainly do. They made legal things illegal and illegal things legal, and they followed them; and by doing so they really worshipped them.
(Tafsir At-Tabari, Vol. 10, Page No. 114).
Islam requires that the Muslim comply in each matter upon which Allah or His Messenger have ruled. This covers rituals, mutual dealings, behavior, beliefs, etc.
Islam is perhaps more than what we normally think of as religion. It covers all aspects of individual and collective living, because of this it does not allow for ‘separation of church and state’. Rather, this way of life is all-inclusive, and yet maintains sufficient internal flexibility to accommodate human uniqueness.
In Islam, honest work is considered in a type of worship. The Prophet said: “
“Whoever finds himself tired at nightfall because of his work, Allah will forgive his sins.”
Seeking knowledge is one of the highest types of worship. The Prophet told his companions that “Seeking knowledge is a (religious) obligation on every Muslim.”
In another saying he said:
“Seeking knowledge for one hour is better that worshipping for seventy years.”
Social courtesy and cooperation are part of worship when done to please Allah, as the Prophet told us:
“Receiving your brother with a smile is a type of charity, helping a person to load his animal is a charity and putting some water in your neighbor’s bucket is a charity.”
It is worth noting that even performing one’s duties is considered worship: The Prophet informed us that whatever a person spends to care for his family is charity; and he will be rewarded for it if had acquired it through legal means.
Kindness to the members of one’s family is an act of worship as when one puts a piece of food in his spouse’s mouth as the Prophet informed us. Not only this but even the acts that we enjoy doing are considered acts of worship. The Prophet said :
“… And in man’s sexual Intercourse (with his wife,) there is a charity. The Companions said: Messenger of Allah, is there reward for him who satisfies his passion among us? He said: Tell me, if he were to devote it to something forbidden, would it not be a sin on his part? Similarly, if he were to devote it to something lawful, he should have a reward.”
(Saheeh Muslim, Book 005, Number 2198)
Islam does not consider sex as a dirty thing that one should avoid. It is a dirty and a sinful act only when it is made outside marital bounds.
The Phenomenal Growth of Islam
It is well known that in the United States, Islam is the fastest-growing religion. The following are some observations on this phenomenon:
· “Islam is the fastest-growing religion in America, a guide and pillar of stability for many of our people…” (Hillary Rodham Clinton, Los Angeles Times).
· “Moslems are the world’s fastest-growing group…” (The Population Reference Bureau, USA Today).
· “….Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the country.” (Geraldine Baum; Newsday Religion Writer, Newsday).
· “Islam, the fastest-growing religion in the United States…” (Ari L. Goldman, New York Times).
This phenomenon indicates that Islam is truly a religion from Allah. It is unreasonable to think that so many Americans converted to Islam without careful consideration and deep contemplation before concluding that Islam is true. These Americans come from different classes, races, and walks of life. They include scientists, professors, philosophers, and journalists.
It was a miracle that Prophet Muhammad could bring even his toughest enemies into the fold of Islam without adequate material resources. Worshippers of idols, blind followers of the ways of their forefathers, promoters of tribal feuds, abusers of human dignity and blood, became the most disciplined nation under the guidance of Islam and its Prophet.
Islam opened before them vistas of spiritual heights and human dignity by declaring righteousness as the sole criterion of merit and honor. Islam shaped their social, cultural, moral and commercial life with basic laws and principles which are in conformity with human nature and hence applicable in all times as human nature does not change.
Here we furnish some observations on Islam by great and acknowledged non-Muslim scholars. Truth needs no advocate to plead on its behalf, but the prolonged malicious propaganda against Islam has created great confusion even in the minds of free and objective thinkers.
Canon Taylor: Paper read before the Church Congress at Wolver Hampton, Oct. 7, 1887,Quoted by Arnold in “The Preaching of Islam”, pp. 71-72:
“It (Islam) replaced monkish ness by manliness. It gives hope to the slave, brotherhood to mankind, and recognition of the fundamental facts of human nature.”
Sarojini Naidu: Lectures on “The Ideals of Islam” see Speeches and Writings of Sarojini Naidu, Madras, 1918, p. 167:
“Sense of justice is one of the most wonderful ideals of Islam, because as I read the Quran I find those dynamic principles of life, not mystic but practical ethics for the daily conduct of life suited to the whole world.”
H.A.R. Gibb, Whither Islam,
“But Islam has a still further service to render to the cause of humanity. It stands after all nearer to the real East than Europe does, and it possesses a magnificent tradition of inter-racial understanding and cooperation. No other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity, and of endeavors so many and so various races of mankind. Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If ever the opposition of the great societies of East and West is to be replaced by cooperation, the mediation of Islam is an indispensable condition. In its hands lies very largely the solution of the problem with which Europe is faced in its relation with the East. If they unite, the hope of a peaceful issue is immeasurably enhanced. But if Europe, by rejecting the cooperation of Islam, throws it into the arms of its rivals, the issue can only be disastrous for both.”
G.B. Shaw, The Genuine Islam, Vol. 1, No. 81936:
“I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him – the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness: I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.”
W. Montgomery Watt, Islam And Christianity Today, London, 1983, p. ix
“I am not a Muslim in the usual sense, though I hope I am a “Muslim” as “one surrendered to God,” but I believe that embedded in the Quran and other expressions of the Islamic vision are vast stores of divine truth from which I and other occidentals have still much to learn, and ‘Islam is certainly a strong contender for the supplying of the basic framework of the one religion of the future.'”
James A. Michener, Islam the Misunderstood Religion, Readers Digest (American Edition), May 1955:
“No other religion in history spread so rapidly as Islam… The West has widely believed that this surge of religion was made possible by the sword. But no modern scholar accepts that idea, and the Quran is explicit in support of the freedom of conscience.”
M.K. Gandhi, Young India, 1924
“….I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These, and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every trouble.”
What Do Converts to Islam Say About Islam?
Leopold Weiss: Austrian statesman, journalist, former foreign correspondent for the Frankfurter Zeitung; author of Islam at the Crossroads and Road the Mecca and translator of the Quran. He embraced Islam in 1926:
“Islam appears to me like a perfect work of architecture. All its parts are harmoniously conceived to complement and support each other. Nothing is superfluous and nothing lacking, with the result of an absolute balance and solid composure.”
Ahmed Holt: British Civil Contractor, traveler in search of the Divine Truth, spent much of his time in research and comparative study of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He embraced Islam in 1975:
“The SWORD OF ISLAM is not the sword of steel. I know this by experience, because the sword of Islam struck deep into my own heart. It didn’t bring death, but it brought a new life; it brought an awareness and it brought an awakening as to who am I and what am I and for what am I here?”
Herbert Hobohm: German diplomat, missionary and social worker. An intellectual who has been serving the German diplomatic missions in various parts of the world. Presently working as Cultural Attache in German Embassy in Riyadh. He embraced Islam in 1941:
“I have lived under different systems of life and have had the opportunity of studying various ideologies, but have come to the conclusion that none is as perfect as Islam. None of the systems has got a complete code of a noble life. Only Islam has it; and that is why good men embrace it. Islam is not theoretical; it is practical. It means complete submission to the will of Allah.”
Margaret Marcus: Formerly an American Jewess, essayist and author of many books. She embraced Islam in 1962:
“The authority of Islamic morals and laws proceeds from Almighty Allah. Pleasure and happiness in Islam are but the natural byproducts of emotional satisfaction in one’s duties conscientiously performed for the pleasure of Allah to achieve salvation. In Islam duties are always stressed above rights. Only in Islam was my quest for absolute values satisfied. Only in Islam did I at last find all that was true, good, beautiful and which gives meaning and direction to human life and death.”
Cassius Clay (now Muhammad Ali); American; three-time World Heavyweight Champion, former Christian. He embraced Islam in 1965:
“I have had many nice moments in my life. But the feelings I had while standing on Mount Arafat on the day of hajj (Muslims’ pilgrimage), was the most unique. I felt exalted by the indescribable spiritual atmosphere there as over a million and a half pilgrims invoked Allah to forgive them of their sins and bestow on them His choicest blessings. It was an exhilarating experience to see to people belonging to different colors, races and nationalities, kings, heads of states and ordinary men from very poor countries all clad in two simple white sheets praying to Allah without any sense of either pride or inferiority. It was a practical manifestation of the concept of equality in Islam.”
These were the impressions of a few persons who had themselves been struck by the ‘Sword of Islam’, that is, the Message of Islam.
As you have read, Islam is a comprehensive religion, covering the spiritual and practical realms. Through it Allah calls people to His obedience and eventually to His Forgiveness and Paradise.
According to recent statistics, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States of America. Also Europeans are entering Islam in increasing numbers. Men and women of all walks of life, races and cultures are accepting Islam at an amazing rate. Projections show that by the year 2000 Islam became the second largest religion in the U.S.
Allah has made this religion open to all people, so we invite you to come and learn more!