Towards Understanding Islam: “Islam” has a two-fold meaning: submission and peace


You’ve heard the word Islam but you don’t understand what it’s all about. You wanted to know what is Islam as you see Muslims all over the place yet most people don’t even know what Islam is. You find it ridiculously ironic that something is so prevalent yet so unknown to most people. You wanted to know exactly what Islam is and why Muslims claim that it is the only True Religion. But your question of why demands a rational answer. You just don’t accept something that doesn’t make any sense. The answer of why had to be logically sound, there had to be a rational behind it, something that is based on analyzing the patterns of reasoning by which a conclusion is properly drawn from a set of self-evident proofs thereby proving without a shadow of a doubt its undeniable truth.

Islam not only claims to be the only true way but it also presents a series of logical and clear evidences to back that claim. My goal is to present Islam that would captivate our intellectual reasoning by analyzing its clear and rational proofs, and by the time you’re done reading this, you will understand what Islam really is and why it is indeed the only True Religion. In order to understand it intellectually, we need to establish a basis for our discussion which takes into account certain characteristics a True Religion must have which must be accepted at the outset. Otherwise, there can be no common ground between the one who poses the question and the one tries to answer it.

These characteristics are:

1. It must exist since the beginning of time. This is necessary because if it doesn’t, then we cannot claim a religion to be true if there are people who had lived and died before its existence simply because salvation would be impossible for them.

2. The object of worship must be the Creator, and not His creation. This is obvious. But false religions don’t do this, they worship God’s creation instead of God, the Creator.

3. It must be universally available everywhere and at any given point in time. The True Religion must not depend on to a particular person, restricted at a certain place, or limited at any given point in time.

Within the framework which these characteristics are established, we will find that the answer to the question as to why Islam is the only True Religion is an enlightening one. One that is truly an eye-opener if we would only open up our minds and set aside our prejudices.

The starting point of understanding Islam is to know the meaning of the word Islam itself. The word Islam is derived from the Arabic root word SLM, which literally means to surrender, to submit, to yield, or to give one’s self up. It also includes the meaning of peace – to achieve peace – because in Arabic, a word can have a variety of meaning depending on the context that is being intended. In Arabic morphology, or the study of linguistic patterns of word formation, there are a lot of words that can be formed out from the root word SLM. One such word is “SaLaM”, literally means peace. Another word is “aSLaMa”, which means a person who had submitted, or he resigned himself into something. Similarly, it uses the prefix mu to denote someone performing an action, when combine with this root word, it will turn out the word “muSLiM”, a person who is doing the act of submission, or an individual who gives himself up. And from this same root word, a noun from verb can be derived from it, and the word “iSLaM” is formed out. Notice how the three root letters SLM can come out in different words depending on what and how you want to use it in Arabic.

So from the root word SLM, which carries the meanings of submission, to submit, peace and to achieve peace, the words ISLAM, SALAM, ASLAMA, and MUSLIM are deduced. iSLaM is the name of an action word indicating submission to the will of God, or an act of resignation to God. In the greetings among Muslims, the word SaLaM is there in “as salam mu alaykum”, which means peace be unto you. aSLaMa, the past tense of the verb, is the term used for a person who had accepted Islam, or somebody who had surrendered himself to the will of God. And a muSLiM is the active participle of the verb, somebody who is the doer of that action. He is someone who submits to the will of God and has achieved peace to himself.

The word Islam has a two-fold meaning: submission and peace. This submission requires a fully conscious and willing effort to submit to the One God. Once we humble ourselves and submit totally to God – in faith and in action – we will surely find an inner peace in our lives. These two meanings are interrelated to one another in such a way that the natural consequence of this act of submission to God is that man achieves peace to his own self as the end result of his action. In short, Islam means peace acquired by submitting your will to God’s will.

Islam teaches that one must submit to the will of God and live according to the teachings of the prophets. A Muslim therefore believes in all the prophets starting with Adam and together with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, etc. He also believes that God had sent His prophets to all corners of the earth to preach only one religion and to guide man to the right path. But mankind not only strayed away from the right path again and again, they also lost or distorted the code of guidance that the prophets had brought. That is why prophets were sent to re-state the original message and guide man back to the right path. The message of God was brought to this world by a succession of prophets in different times of history until God sent down the last revelation to the last prophet.

This last revelation is known as the Qur’an. It is a complete record of the exact words revealed by God to the last prophet. This revelation was memorized, recorded and passed on as is. The last prophet received the exact wording and passed it on to his followers. The Qur’an has been perfectly preserved since its revelation both orally and in writing. Even today, there are hundreds of thousands of Muslims from around the world who can recite the entire text of the Qur’an from memory, just as it was memorized in the time of the last prophet. Original copies of the manuscript still exist today and not one word of it has been changed over the centuries. It remains preserved and unchanged since the time of revelation in its original Arabic text over fourteen centuries ago. It is God and only God speaking in the Qur’an. There are no comments, passages or quotes from humans whatsoever in the Qur’an.

This Last Prophet is Muhammad, a name which may not sound like a prophet for those who are not Muslims, but when we try to look at the world’s most influential people that had lived in history, here is a man who has touched the lives of billions of people for the last 1400 years. Whose teachings are so simple and logical that over the centuries had passed, people from all walks of life, from every nation on earth, and from every human race accepted Islam. His message is very clear and easy to understand – He called people to worship One God, as well as living by example of God’s message.

Thus, the Muslim’s beliefs are based on two sources, the Qur’an: the last divine message of God that He revealed to Muhammad, the last prophet, and the Sunnah: a collection of recorded words and actions of Prophet Muhammad, it helps explain and clarify the Qur’an and to present practical applications to its message. It is these two sources of guidance, which is now known as Islam: as revealed in the Qur’an and as exemplified by the last prophet. Because of the absolutely unique position he occupied as the recipient of revelations from God, every act and detail of his life was of the greatest interest to those around him. His life-example became a guide for Muslims in the understanding of the Qur’an and the practice of their religion.

For Muslims throughout the centuries, the message of the Qur’an and the life-example of Prophet Muhammad have constituted the formative and enduring foundation of faith and good deeds. They have served as the basic sources of principles and norms on which daily life is to be patterned. So Islam is not just a religion in of itself, but a complete way of life, providing guidelines in every aspect of a Muslim’s life. Muslims have a book of guidance, and a prophet who lived a life of guidance that was sent forth in the book. Prophet Muhammad’s life was the best example of the noble lessons and principles set forth in the Qur’an. Because of this, the last prophet’s teachings and practices have become a material source of Muslim creed alongside the Qur’an.

The Qur’an – the last divine revelation – exists in its original text, without a word or even a letter having been changed. And the Sunnah – the last prophet’s words and actions – is preserved with authenticity and accuracy. The accounts preserved in the books of Sunnah are a collection of authentic narrative stories about the prophet’s life. Muslims have carefully and in detail scrutinized the reliability of the transmitters of these narrations, and only those whose narrators are found to be completely reliable and sound are accepted. So not only do Muslims have the complete text of God’s message that was revealed to Muhammad, the Qur’an, but they have also preserved the entire record of his teachings and practices in what is called as the Sunnah. The Sunnah demonstrates how the Qur’an is to be implemented. The Qur’an is the manual, and the Sunnah is the practical demonstration of that manual. Prophet Muhammad conveyed not only the message of the Qur’an, but he also lived by example of its practical application. Thus, the Qur’an and the Life-example of the last prophet together became the beautiful way of life that we know today as Islam.

Prophet Muhammad is not the founder of Islam, as many people mistakenly think. He was only a human being commissioned by God to teach His commandments and lead an exemplary life. He stands as the best model for the Muslims in righteousness that is why his life served as an example in which a Muslim’s life is to be patterned. Islam did not begin with the prophethood of Muhammad nor was it founded by him. The real founder of Islam was no less than God Himself, and the date of the founding of Islam goes back at the time of Adam, the father of mankind. It was not Muhammad but Adam who first brought Islam to humanity. Then, each prophet and messenger came to teach their own people to a clear understanding of God’s commandments. They put forward teachings relevant on their time but the essence and core concept of their message was the same, and that is the worship of One God purely and submission to His will.

Prophet Muhammad himself makes it abundantly clear that Islam, the complete submission of man before God, is the one and only faith consistently revealed by God to mankind from the very beginning. Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus – prophets of the past who appeared at different times and places all brought the same message. They were each repeating the message of their predecessor. Thus, Islam has had existed in one form or another through a series of divine guidance that God had revealed to different prophets, on separate times and in various places. Prophets were sent to all nations of the earth to guide people to the straight path of worshiping One God. But, with the passage of time, people went astray and the teachings of the prophets were either changed or lost. That’s why prophets were sent again and again to all corners of the earth until the last prophet came.

For this reason, Islam is not a new religion with a new scripture brought by Prophet Muhammad, but rather to be a re-expression in its complete and final form of the true religion of God, as it was originally revealed to Adam and subsequent prophets. The Qur’an only represents the original message that was brought by prophets of the past. The Qur’an teaches that the message of God was brought to this world by a succession of prophets since the time of Adam. The essence of Islam, which is the worship of One God and sincere submission to His will, was revealed to Adam who passed it on to his descendants. All following revelations to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and finally Muhammad were in conformity with that message differing only according to the needs of the people to which they were sent. These prophets taught their people the same concept of religion of what is known today as Islam.

The most important teaching of Prophet Muhammad is faith in Tawheed, or the Oneness of God. In Arabic, the term Tawheed comes from the word waahid, literally means One, and it implies to make wahada, which means to make something one, or to assert the oneness of something. The word waahid is the opposite of plurality. So waahid is something that will continue to be singular and never become a partner of something else. However, in a religious context, the word Tawheed means to single out God with all forms of worship, so that you make all your worship for God alone. That is, to make wahada to worship, to assert the Oneness of God in all forms of worship, or to direct all forms of worship to someone who is waahid – the One (God).

Tawheed, or the “Oneness of God” lies at the very heart of Islam. It strongly emphasize that there is only One True God and that He alone deserves to be worshiped. It asserts God’s oneness in its simplest, uncomplicated, most literal sense. That there is “One God” in the most basic, simple, and elementary meaning of the word. He has no son, no parents nor any similarity or equal. His nature as a Supreme Being does not resemble in anything, and such qualities as The Creator and Provider, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, All-Knowing, All-Hearing and Seeing, All-Powerful, etc. only belongs to Him and there’s absolutely no one like Him. Islam teaches that God has a unique nature and that He is free from gender, human weaknesses, and beyond anything which human beings can imagine. There is nothing like Him in this world because the Creator must be distinct and different from the things that He creates. He is above all defects and above any similarity to anything in creation.

And this Unique and Great God, who has the exclusive right to be worshiped by man, revealed His glorious name in the Qur’an as “Allah”, and describe Himself as the One and Only True God whom worship is due: {“ Verily, I am Allah! There is no God but I, so worship Me alone”} (Qur’an 20:14).

In Arabic, the word ilah means “one who is worshiped”. That is, a being which on account of its greatness and power is considered worthy to be worshiped. Anything or any being who possess powers that are so great that it controls the whole of creation is also called ilah. The concept of ilah also includes the sense that the whole creation is dependent on Him and He is not dependent on anyone else. He does not need anything. He does not need His creation. But the whole creation turns to Him for all that they need. Other languages also contain words with a similar meaning, and the word God in English have a similar connotation of the Arabic word ilah.

In the Arabic Grammar, if you want to make a common noun to proper, you add the definite article “al” to it. The prefix “al” is equivalent to the word “the” in English. So the definite article al is added to the word ilah to make it proper. Thus, the proper noun of ilah is the word Allah. The word “Allah” literally means “The God” – made up of the word al (the Arabic word for the) and the word ilah (the Arabic word for God). But a more accurate translation of the word Allah into English would be “The One and Only God”, or “The One True God”.

The name “Allah” is something that God Himself who informed us through divine revelation that this is His name. Muslims refer to God as “Allah” only because this name is what the Creator calls Himself in the Qur’an. It came from divine revelation and it is the name that God use to refer to Himself.

When Prophet Muhammad started to talk about Islam to his people, they asked him who Allah is. The answer didn’t come from the prophet. Allah revealed one chapter in the Qur’an in response to their question: {“Say (tell them Oh Prophet Muhammad): He is Allah, the One and Unique (God). Allah, the Everlasting Self-Sufficient (whom all creatures need). He has not given birth and was not born. And no one is comparable to Him.”} (Qur’an 112: 1-4).

This is Allah Himself answering to the question of who He is. And there is no better answer. To Muslims, this four-verse definition of God serves as the touchstone of the study of divinity. Any man-made concept of God must be subjected to this acid test. False and erroneous concepts about God can easily be dismissed using these verses. These verses tell us that God is only One, not three-in-one. God has no needs and is self-sufficient, but the whole creation is dependent on Him for all that they need. God was not born, nor does He give birth. Thus, He does not have a son and share His divinity to others. And there is no creation that is like Him. He is the Creator and His being is distinct and separate from His creation. Therefore, He did not become a part of creation by becoming a man.

But Islam makes it very clear though, that the belief in Allah doesn’t only mean to simply believe that He is the One True God, but it does mean also, and this is the most important point that needs to be stressed: that the belief in Tawheed means much more than simply believing that there is “One God”, but it strongly emphasize that all kinds of worship should exclusively be devoted to Allah alone and that every care is taken to ensure that this is observed at all times.

Tawheed is the belief that Allah is:

1. One without partner in His Dominion and Actions
2. One without similarity in His Essence and Attributes
3. One without rival in His Divinity and Worship

This is the core of the matter in Islam: that Allah is One without partner in His Dominion and Actions – He alone is the One who has the absolute control over creation, He alone has the power over all things; He is One without similarity in His Essence and Attributes – no other entity can in any way have the attributes of the Creator, He is far beyond our imagination and bears no resemblance to any of His creation; And He is One without rival in His Divinity and Worship – to single out the Creator alone for all worship, and not to worship anything along with Him.
The absence of any of the above aspects of Tawheed is referred to as Shirk, literally means sharing. It refers to the worship of others instead of Allah or along with Him. It is an act of assigning partners to Allah in whatever form it may take. In Islam, the main objective is to ensure the Oneness of God. It is not enough that people believe that “God is One”, but they must follow up this belief by worshiping that One God alone. This simple concept of Tawheed has to be explained in detail because for some people, even though they believe in “One God”, do not direct all of their worship and prayers to Him alone. They call on numerous saints for every specific need, in statues made of stone, etc. Their argument is that they are not actually worshiping the stone image or the statue, but God who is present within it. They claim that the stone idols and carved images are only the focal point for God’s essence and is not in itself God. They try devising a “rational excuse” for their actions. But obviously, this is faulty reasoning. This is not from God – this is idolatry. This is the worst sin that a man can commit.

The belief in Tawheed means to deny all forms of association of partners with Allah. It rejects the use of all intermediaries between God and man, and stresses that people approach God directly and reserve all worship for Him alone. If someone faces an idol or to a stone image and prays, he has associated a partner with Allah, because worship is being shared between Allah and His creation. Likewise if someone prays to a prophet, to so-called saints asking for help from Allah thru them, has also committed shirk. Shirk can take many forms: facing to idols or statues while praying, calling upon saints for help, believing that God became man, etc. All forms of shirk must be avoided, no matter what shape, form, or name. Shirk simply means an act of worship for other than Allah, or along with Allah. In other words, it is an act of calling, supplicating, and praying to created beings instead of the Creator. The greatest sin in Islam is to engage in practices which contradict or compromise Tawheed. This direct or indirect association of partners with Allah is referred to as Shirk.

Allah created humans to worship Him, that’s why Shirk represents the greatest act of rebellion against God because it contradicts the purpose of our creation, and is thus the ultimate sin. It is a sin so great that it virtually cancels out all good a person may do and guarantees its perpetrator eternal in Hell if he does not give it up before his death:
{“If you were to join other gods with Allah, (then) surely (all) your deeds will be in vain, and you will surely be among the losers (in the hereafter)”} (Qur’an 39:65).

Of course, if a person does give up this sin of idolatry before his death, then he is safe from such eternal punishment in Hell fire. Islam’s greatest commandment is to worship Allah alone, and its strictest prohibition is worshiping others besides Him or along with Him.

Man-made religions in one way or the other invite their followers to the worship of creation. Some people are called upon to pray to a man, a prophet named Jesus, whom they have claimed to have been the “son of God”. They also pray to Mary as the “mother of God”, as well as human saints, etc. They made a god out of Jesus and directed their prayer to him and his mother. They have saints for every occasion to whom they direct their prayers in the belief that these saints can directly influence the affairs of this world. They also use their priests as intercessors between themselves and God, in the mistaken belief that the priests are closer to God due to their celibacy and piety, and thus more likely to be listened to by God.

Since the greatest sin in God’s sight is the worship of others besides Him or along with Him, and everything besides Him is creation, the principles of Islam are all either directly or indirectly opposed to the worship of creation. The fundamental tenets of Islam make a very clear distinction between the Creator and what He has created. The Creator and the created are separate and distinct. The Creator is invisible in this life. No one can see Him in this earthly life. Thus, He is not manifested or incarnated in any other life forms. Therefore, the commandments in Islam concerning worship clearly indicate that Allah is not to be found in created beings, He is totally separate from them, and thus any worship in His creation or thru His creation is the greatest of sins: {“Joining others in worship with Allah is indeed the greatest sin”} (Qur’an 31:13)

The concept of Oneness of God is the single most important concept in Islam.
The concept of Oneness of God is the single most important concept in Islam. This is the most fundamental principle, it is this concept of Tawheed which is at the core of Islam. It calls humanity away from the worship of any part of creation to the worship of The One and Only True God, The Creator.

Some religions claim that God cannot forgive man directly therefore He sends His so-called “only begotten son” to save mankind from their sins. Others interpret this concept that God came down to earth and became a human being to save mankind’s sins. By claiming that God cannot forgive humans directly, people turn to false gods for help. These false gods come in different forms, and anyone who is in his right mind can tell that these so-called gods are indeed false because these are created beings like him.

False religions either claim that God became man, or that God may be worshiped in the form of His creation thru carved-images of different idols. But as has been revealed in the Qur’an, God was not born nor does He give birth, and His being is distinct and separate from His creation. Therefore, He did not become a part of creation by becoming a human being.

Islam strongly stresses that God did not became man nor did He sent a so-called “only begotten son” to save the sins of the world because He can forgive man directly anyway. There is no need to shed blood to an innocent person just to save mankind from its sins because God is perfectly capable of bestowing His infinite Mercy and Forgiveness to whomever He chooses.

Islam teaches that God should be approached directly without any intermediaries. That is because the Most Merciful, All-Knowing God is completely in control of everything that exists, and that He can bestow His forgiveness and mercy on His creatures as He pleases. Islam commands Man to pray to God directly seeking mercy and forgiveness only to Him. It also forbids man to worship something created because the One True God has to be the Creator and not a part of creation that He creates.

Even though other religions have claimed to believe in One God, over time, some man-made ideas entered into their beliefs and practices leading them away from the pure teachings of the prophets. They carved different images and statues and worshiped them, despite the fact that they know that they are the ones who made these things. They worship something that they made by their own hands that cannot hear or answer them. Some even believed that their prophet were the manifestations of God, or “Son of God”. All of these misconceptions lead to the worship of created beings instead of the Creator. But divine revelation makes it very clear that: {“Allah has not taken to Himself any son, nor is there any god with Him.”} (Qur’an 23:91).

This means that Allah does not have a son nor share his divinity with others. By neglecting the true teachings of the prophets and mixing them with man-made ideas, other religions have distorted and nullified the pure belief of “One God” even though they claim that they believe in such. Tawheed is not just simply believing that God is One, but it further emphasize to worship that One God alone.

Some people say that they pray to and worship others besides God only to get closer to Him. They often approach God through an intermediary, such as a saint, an angel, a human being like Virgin Mary or to a prophet like Jesus – obviously, these are all God’s creation. In Islam, there is a clear distinction between the Creator and the created. The Creator of everything must be different from and greater than the things that He creates. There is no confusion in divinity. Anything that is created is not deserving of worship, and only the Creator is worthy of being worshiped. It is made clear that there is nothing divine or worthy of being worshiped except the One True God, the Creator. Or to put it in one simple statement, “Worship the Creator and not His Creations”.

In Islam, there is no such thing as an intercessor or intermediary in all forms of worship. You don’t need to seek help on anyone such as patron saints, or to call upon to so-called “son of God”, or to seek mercy to the supposed “mother of God”, or to go to a priest to confess your sins and ask for forgiveness, or to face an idol made of wood and stones when you pray, etc. It is only in Islam that a person is required to pray only to God, direct and without any intermediary. There is no need to call on anyone whether it is a saint, an idol made of wood and stones, or someone who is believed to be the “son of God”, because clearly all these are created beings like us.

We can easily determine if a religion is false by looking at the object of their worship. If they worship anything or anyone besides the Creator, then it must be false. It just makes sense to us that the only one who deserves to be worshiped is the One who created us, and not His creations. By using the principle of identifying the object of worship, we can easily detect false religions and the man-made nature of their origin. False religions teach the greatest evil – the worship of creation. For example, Prophet Jesus invited his followers to worship God, but those who claim to be his followers today call people to worship Jesus, claiming that he was God, which is the exact opposite of what Jesus said. Jesus did not claim to be God, nor did he told his followers that he be an object of worship. Yet today most people who claim to be his followers have taken him to be God and pray to images and idols made in their perception of his likeness.

The message of Islam, as brought by the prophets of God, is to worship only the Creator and to avoid the worship of His creation either directly or indirectly. It is a clear call to the worship of the Creator and the rejection of creation-worship in any form. The objective of Islam is to call people away from the worship of creation and to direct them towards the worship of the Creator alone.

The belief in only One Creator is not all there is to a proper belief in God. Throughout history, it has been the case that some people stopped at this clear premise and deemed that such was all there was to the belief in God. This belief is definitely necessary but not sufficient. This belief must be followed up with the rejection of worshiping others instead of God, or along with Him. Then, and only then that a person will be fulfilling what it truly means to believe in One God. The most important message that God revealed to mankind is that there is nothing divine or worthy of being worshiped except Him. This is the very essence of the divine message brought by all the prophets, and it is what Islam really is all about – to worship One God alone.

Islam’s concept of Oneness of God that is Tawheed is very simple and clear, and leaves no room for any type of misconceptions which often lead to the worship of creation that is Shirk. Thus, a person who truly believes in the Oneness of God has to worship Him alone and refrain from associating any partner with Him of any kind. Islam strongly emphasizes the worship of Allah alone without ascribing to Him any partner.

The basic and most fundamental teaching of Islam invites man to worship only its Creator and to avoid the worship of creation in any way shape or form.

In Islam, there is no such thing as “Trinity” because Allah has no partners with Him being God, and He does not share His perfect attributes to anyone. Understanding that Allah is the only Supreme Being means denying the existence of any other god. The concept of Tawheed is straightforward, clear and easy to understand. It is free from irrational, mysterious or confusing ideas. That there is only One God – not in a Trinity or a multitude of gods – is something that even a small child can understand without difficulty.

Thus, simply believing in “One God” is not enough to become a Muslim because other religions also have this belief. This belief in “One God” needs to be supported with practice by worshiping that “One God” alone and no one else. For a Muslim, the belief of “One God” is in its purest, absolute meaning of the word. He refrains from worshiping anything or anyone besides the “One God”.

In Islam, the worst possible sin is to worship anything or anyone other than God, even if the worshiper intends to draw nearer to God by offering devotions to another being. So even though other religions also claim to believe in One God, they fall short and violate this belief by worshiping others alongside Him, which is, as all of the prophets taught, the greatest sin.

Prophet Muhammad was instructed by Allah to tell people what is really forbidden to them: {“Say (tell them Oh Prophet Muhammad): Come, I will recite to you what Allah has really forbidden to you: Do not setup anything (in worship) with Him”} (Qur’an 6:151).

Because of this, Islam considers associating any god or personality along with Allah as a deadly sin that He will never forgive, despite the fact that He may forgive all other sins. The act of associating others in worship with Allah is the most sinful act that Prophet Muhammad has informed us.

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